Scrutiny, criticism of ICE come with immigration enforcement – AP

By COLLEEN LONG

In this Oct. 22, 2018, photo U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surround and detain a person during a raid in Richmond, Va. ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election, prioritizing criminals. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The officers suit up in the pre-dawn darkness, wrapping on body armor, snapping in guns, pulling on black sweat shirts that read POLICE and ICE.

They gather around a conference table in an ordinary office in a nondescript office park in the suburbs, going over their targets for the day: two men, both with criminal histories. Top of the list is a man from El Salvador convicted of drunken driving.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election — prioritizing criminals.

But they have also stepped up arrests of people who have no U.S. criminal records. It is those stories of ICE officers arresting dads and grandmothers that pepper local news. Officers are heckled and videotaped. Some Democratic politicians have called for ICE to be abolished.

ICE employees have been threatened at their homes, their personal data exposed online, officials said.

“There is a tension around ‘It could be that somebody could find out what I do and hate me for it or do worse than hate me for it,’” Ronald Vitiello, acting head of the agency, told The Associated Press.

Vitiello said the agency is monitoring social media and giving employees resources for when they feel threatened.

ICE, formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, had been told under the Obama administration to focus on removing immigrants who had committed crimes. Trump, in one of his first moves in office, directed his administration to target anyone in the country illegally.

Government data back up that ICE is still mostly targeting people convicted of a crime. But the data also show the agency has greatly ramped up arrests of people who were accused of a crime but not convicted, and increased arrests solely on immigration violations.

ICE arrested 32,977 people accused of crimes and 20,464 with immigration violations during the budget year 2018. There were 105,140 arrests of someone with a criminal conviction and 158,581 arrests overall. The most frequent criminal conviction was for drunken driving, followed by drug and traffic offenses.


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