Arrests and deportations have risen sharply in Georgia and the Carolinas amid the Trump administration’s clampdown on illegal immigration, according to new figures the government released Tuesday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made 13,551 arrests during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 in its Atlanta area of operations, which includes Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. That is up 52 percent from the previous fiscal year. But it is down 23 percent from fiscal 2013, when President Barack Obama was in office and ICE made 17,600 arrests. Obama drew the derisive nickname “deporter in chief” for his administration’s record numbers of expulsions.
Meanwhile, ICE carried out 12,571 deportations from its Atlanta area of operations in fiscal 2017, or more than double the number of removals from the previous fiscal year, when 5,770 expulsions were recorded. The Obama administration reported 14,744 deportations in fiscal 2013.
Nationwide, the number of ICE deportations dropped 6 percent to 226,119 last fiscal year compared with the year before amid steeply falling apprehensions along the southwest border.
“If you choose to violate the laws of this country, you should be concerned that ICE is looking” for you, acting ICE Director Tom Homan told reporters Tuesday morning in Washington. “That’s the way it is supposed to be.”
President Donald Trump made bolstering immigration enforcement the centerpiece of his campaign for the White House. Soon after he took office in January, he signed a pair of executive orders for building a new wall on the southwest border, hiring 10,000 additional immigration enforcement officers and stripping federal funding from municipalities that don’t fully cooperate with deportation authorities.
In February, his administration issued new guidelines widening ICE’s focus to include not only people with criminal convictions but those whose charges have not yet been resolved and others who “have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”
Advocacy groups have criticized ICE for arresting and deporting people with jobs and families in the United States. Many of them are held in privately operated immigration detention centers in Georgia before they are expelled from the country.
“We continue to try to lock people up to solve this problem and it actually makes the problem worse. It costs us more money as taxpayers,” said Kevin Caron, a steering committee member for Georgia Detention Watch, which supports people detained by ICE. “It absolutely destroys the lives of people.”
On Tuesday, ICE released figures showing 67 of those the agency arrested in Georgia and the Carolinas during the last fiscal year have criminal convictions.
Also Tuesday, more than 30 Republican congressmen sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan signaling their support for a “permanent legislative solution” by the end of this year that would shield from deportation immigrants brought as children to the U.S. without authorization. None of those who signed the letter are from Georgia. Trump announced last month that his administration would phase out an Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that is temporarily protecting such immigrants from deportation.
“DACA recipients — young people brought to America through no fault of their own — are contributing members of our communities and our economy,” the congressmen wrote in their letter. “For many, this is the only country they have ever known. They are American in every way except their immigration status.”
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