January 20, 2019

Is immigration enforcement really more aggressive under Trump?


By Matt Stroud

Photo byNick de la Canal / WFAE, republished by Pew Trusts.

Local police officers are not permitted to investigate immigration-related issues or carry out immigration enforcement. It’s racial profiling and it’s simply not constitutional — just ask Sheriff Joe Arpaio. There is, however, a bit of a loophole. Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act permits law enforcement agencies to make a request with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to carry out certain immigration enforcement duties, such as jailing non-citizens prior to deportation proceedings or raiding businesses suspected of employing them.

When Americans elected Donald J. Trump to represent them in the White House, one of his signature promises revolved around the 287(g) program: He’d encourage more law enforcement agencies to participate in 287(g), and local immigration arrests would skyrocket.

According to a new report from Stateline — and data collected by TRAC Reports Inc. — that’s exactly what happened. Sort of.

During the final two years of the Obama administration, the number of arrests attributed to the 287(g) program hovered between 218 and 428 per month, carried out by deputies with 30 sheriff’s departments representing counties all over the country. Since then, arrests have increased to a high of 945 per month — a 121 percent increase — and the number of 287(g) departments has more than doubled to 75. Stateline quotes various officials, who explain that the only reason numbers haven’t gone higher is that, while many rural counties overseen by Republican sheriffs have signed up for the program, urban sheriffs have not — and have, in fact, worked to distance themselves.

Of note: TRAC’s data beyond the beginning of 2017 show a surprising truth: ICE carried out more 287(g) arrests, by far, under the Obama administration than under Trump. In June 2010, for example, the Obama administration arrested 3,588 suspects under 287(g). That’s nearly four times the amount carried out under Trump’s most aggressive enforcement month.

Photo by Justin Merriman of American Reportage

Matt Stroud, an accomplished journalist and book author, is a former staff writer with Bloomberg and the Associated Press who has written for Esquire, Harper’s, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, and The New York Times.

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