ST. PAUL, Minn. – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that they have arrested more people in the last three months under President Trump, than in the last two years under President Obama.
Reports coming out of ICE show that the St. Paul office, which serves Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, and Nebraska, has arrested more than 620 illegal immigrants in 2017. This is already an 80 percent increase over the same period of time in 2016.
While ICE has greatly increased arrests in the amount of illegal immigrants without criminal backgrounds, Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for the St. Paul ICE office said in an interview with the Star Tribune that, “Being in the country illegally is a crime….we don’t target people who don’t have criminal records, but we can’t ignore them either.”
Many of these changes have been the result of a shift in priorities. The Obama administration’s instructions to immigration enforcement to focus only on illegal immigrants with felonies or multiple misdemeanor convictions has largely been overturned.
The significant increase in the use of detainers is another major policy change within ICE. Detainers are requests that ICE makes to local authorities to hold inmates until ICE agents can collect them. While 130 detainers were issued during the time period of January 20, 2016 to March 13, 2016, 460 detainers have been issued in the same time frame in 2017.
In addition to these changes in the operation of ICE, the Trump administration has created the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE.) VOICE will assist victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens. Services provided by VOICE include:
- Local contacts to help with unique victim requests;
- Access to social service professionals able to refer victims to resources and service providers;
- Assistance signing-up to receive automated custody status information; and
- Making additional criminal or immigration history available about an illegal alien to victims or their families.
Reports from ICE offices around the country would indicate that the arrest numbers coming out of the St. Paul office mirror national trends, and perhaps even exceed them.
However, one statistic that has not significantly increased either nationally or out of the St. Paul field office is the number of deportations. These numbers have remained relatively stagnant, which at least in Minnesota is accounted for by a shorthanded immigration court. Currently, there are over 5,300 cases waiting to be heard by the Twin Cities immigration court. This situation is expected to be somewhat relieved by a new judge arriving in June, however.
As Virgil Wiebe, a University of St. Thomas immigration law professor told the Star Tribune “This is a significant ramping back up over last year. There’s definitely a shift.”