The Senate is expected to have an open and freewheeling debate on immigration Monday afternoon, but any compromise they reach on the White House’s proposal to grant a path to citizenship to more than a million Dreamers probably won’t include explicit protections for undocumented adults with no criminal record, a group that's been increasingly targeted for deportation under the Trump administration.
In the 2017 fiscal year, which ended last October, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) made 37,734 “non-criminal” arrests. That's more than double the total from the previous year under the Obama administration, which prioritized the immigration arrests of people convicted of serious crimes. The strategy is part of Trump’s goal of taking “the shackles off” immigration enforcement.
While immigration hard-liners are thrilled with Trump’s approach, critics have called the arrests indiscriminate and inhumane. Some of the recent controversial cases they cite include:
- Earlier this month, ICE arrested a 55-year-old chemistry professor in Kansas as he got ready to bring his daughter to school. He had been in the country for more than 30 years after immigrating from Bangladesh, but he overstayed his visa and violated a judge’s order to leave the country in 2011.
- Also in February, ICE deported a Jordanian man who is married to a U.S. citizen and had been in the country for 39 years. He’d applied for a green card and was rejected, but had been able to stay in the country after his congressman helped him receive stays on his deportation.
- Jesus Berrones, a 30-year-old from Mexico, was brought to the U.S. when he was an infant, only to be deported when he was 19 for driving with a fake license. He re-entered the country illegally, but was granted a stay because his son is battling cancer. He is now scheduled for deportation.
- In January, a federal judge compared Trump’s deportation policies to an authoritarian regime in a ruling, after ICE agents arrested Ravi Ragbir, a prominent immigration advocate who’s been a lawful U.S. resident since 1994, at an immigration check-in — an increasingly common practice.
Trump administration officials have maintained that ICE will continue Obama’s priority of going after criminals first, but the agency’s acting director, Thomas Homan, has explicitly said he interprets that mission as going after everyone.
“The president has made it clear in his executive orders: There’s no population off the table,” Homan said in December. “If you’re in this country illegally, we’re looking for you and we’re going to look to apprehend you.”
The debate in Congress Monday is focused on Dreamers, young undocumented people who were brought to the country as children, as well as funding for Trump’s wall, border security, and proposed restrictions on “chain migration” and other measures to curb legal immigration in the long term.