A former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director says President Donald Trump’s administration is targeting the “lowest hanging fruit” for deportation and not the public safety threats the president often talks about in his speeches.
“It’s about getting a large number to kind of show that we followed our campaign promises of getting tough just by increasing total number of deportations,” John Sandweg, who served as acting ICE director in the Obama administration from 2013 to 2014, said in an interview with WNYC’s The Takeaway on Thursday.
Sandweg said the Trump administration is detaining “the lowest hanging fruit because they can be deported, they’ve been caught the quickest, deported the fastest. Forget about whether they’re criminals or not.”
We reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment and will update if we hear back.
Sandweg said the federal government has the resources to remove about 250,000 of 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the interior of the United States, unless there are serious budget increases approved by Congress.
“Our position was look, if you can only remove 2% let’s make sure it’s the worst first, lets find the public safety threats and the criminals and lets focus on them,” Sandweg told WNYC.
The Obama administration prioritized immigrants for deportation who had been convicted of a felony, who were suspected gang members or terrorist.
Officials in the Trump administration claim they’re still focusing on deporting violent criminals but they have also updated immigration forms so that any undocumented immigrant who is booked into a local jail can be transferred into ICE custody for deportation, even if they have not been convicted of a crime.
Listen to the full interview here.