Trump’s Mass Immigration Raids Netted 35 Arrests
President Trump threatened mass immigration raids. What was delivered was far less met the eye.
At the end of June, The Washington Post first reported that mass immigration raids were only days away after threats of the same by the President on Twitter. These raids had also been publicly signaled by immigration authorities. Even before that announcement, though it was apparent that there were doubts and concerns inside of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In part because of these concerns President Trump called the operation off. At the time he made the announcement, the President said that he was doing so to give Congress time to act to address the border crisis, a crisis that is large of his own making and could be ended by simple changes in policy by his Administration. He also didn’t specify exactly what he wanted from Congress, and his statement that he was giving Congress two weeks to come up with something was unrealistic given the fact that Congress would not even be in session for the vast majority of that time period. In any case, while there was a funding bill related to detention facilities that passed the House, it has yet to make it to the President’s desk and it appears that it doesn’t meet whatever the President’s criteria might have been.
Weeks later, it was again reported that these raids were only days away, but it became apparent that the actual scope of the raids was much smaller than expected. Now, we have a report indicating just how small the operation actually was:
More than 2,000 migrants who were in the United States illegally were targeted in widely publicized raids that unfolded across the country last week. But figures the government provided to The New York Times on Monday show that just 35 people were detained in the operation.
President Trump had touted the raids — called Operation Border Resolve — as a show of force amid an influx of Central American parents and children across the southern border. After postponing the raids in June, Mr. Trump said ahead of time that they would take place last week.
Two current Department of Homeland Security officials and one former department official also confirmed to The Times that an enforcement operation would take place around mid-July.
But the publicity may have prompted many of those who had been targeted — 2,105 people in more than a dozen cities who had received final deportation orders but had not reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers — to temporarily leave their homes, or to move altogether to evade arrest.
Advance notice of the large-scale operation also gave immigrant advocates time to counsel families about their rights, which include not opening the door or answering questions. On social media, community groups shared detailed information about sightings of ICE agents.
In an interview Monday, Matthew Albence, the acting director of ICE, which is responsible for arresting, detaining and deporting unauthorized immigrants who are already in the United States, acknowledged that the number of apprehensions was low.
“I don’t know of any other population where people are telling them how to avoid arrest as a result of illegal activity,” he said. “It certainly makes it harder for us to effectuate these orders issued.”
“You didn’t hear ICE talking about it before the operation was taking place,” he added.
The arrests of the nearly three dozen migrants — 17 of whom were members of families that crossed the border together and 18 of whom were so-called collateral apprehensions of undocumented people — were among more than 900 that the immigration authorities have made since mid-May, Mr. Albence said.
From May 13 through July 11, ICE arrested 899 adults who had final deportation orders, in an undertaking called Operation Cross Check. The majority had criminal convictions, Mr. Albence said.
A backlog of nearly one million immigration cases means that it can take years for a case to wind its way through the courts. Those who were targeted in last week’s raids had been placed on an accelerated docket, with a goal of resolving their cases within a year. The majority had been ordered removed from the country by an immigration judge.
“What we found is that the vast majority did not even show up for their first hearing,” Mr. Albence said. “Above and beyond, we sent them letters giving them the opportunity to turn themselves in and arrange for an orderly removal process,” including time to organize their affairs and schedule flights on commercial carriers.
Based on these numbers, it seems as if the threats of mass raids were likely mostly propaganda meant to spread fear among the population that would be targeted and to rile up the base that Trump relies upon for support. In the first respect, the reports ended up causing many families of immigrants to depart their homes, seek sanctuary in places other than their homes, and refuse to answer the door for anyone unless they knew who they were. It has no doubt caused them to live in potential fear that the next knock on the door could be a team of ICE agents to take one or all of them away for eventual deportation even in cases where their identity could not be verified. In the second case, Trump’s supporters will believe whatever he tells them about these raids so if he claims that “thousands” of people who were here illegally were arrested and sent home, they’ll believe him regardless of what the evidence said. Indeed, any evidence to the contrary will be dismissed as “Fake News.”
So we have two explanations for what’s really going on here.
First, there’s the theme of “cruelty is the point” that both Steven Taylor and James Joyner have touched on in the past. The entire point of Trump’s immigration policy from this perspective is to punish these people not just physically but psychologically, and what better way to do that than to create the fear that, at any moment, they could be swept up in an immigration raid, placed in a detention center awaiting a final disposition hearing, or sent back to a country where they are effectively strangers in a strange land. Often these are people who have had children while they are living here in the United States, thus meaning that the children are American citizens who cannot legally be deported. This just adds to the unjust nature of Trump’s policy.
Second, there’s the fact that pretty much everything the President does is about feeding red meat to his base. This is true of the racist tweets that have been in the news the last several weeks, and it’s been true from the beginning about his immigration policies and rhetoric from the time that he became a candidate. It’s rhetoric that the crowds eat up, and he’s going to keep it up as long as it continues working. The fact that most of it is based on bigotry and lies is just icing on the cake.