Last week, immigration officials published a report celebrating a 37.6% increase in immigration arrests during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office.
But new immigration arrest data obtained by Fusion shows the surge in arrests came from immigrants apprehended in neighborhoods across the United States, and not at the border, where the president has promised to build his wall.
Fusion requested the data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials for clarification on the number of interior and border arrests soon after the agency published the number of arrests made during the administration’s first 100 days.
During Trump’s first 100 days in office, ICE officials arrested about 10,000 more immigrants in the interior of the United States than in this same period last year. From January 22, 2017 to April 29, 2017, immigration officials arrested 31,534 individuals, compared to 21,094 in the same timeframe in 2016.
The number of arrests near the border, meanwhile, remained consistent with arrest data from this same time period last year. There were 9,784 arrest made near the border between January 22, 2017 and April 29, 2017—about 850 more arrests than there were in the same time period last year.
The interior arrests were made away from the border, including the 100-mile “border zone” immediately surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border. The data released last week only tracks arrests made by ICE officials and does not account for arrests made by Border Patrol agents.
It’s these interior arrests where the Trump administration has really succeeded not only in numbers, but also in bringing a wave of anxiety to immigrant communities. Immigration attorneys I spoke to said immigrants detained in the interior, compared to those arrested near the border, often have family connections and have been in the U.S. for several years.
Recently, interior arrests also have included apprehensions at locations that previous administrations stayed away from, like courthouses, elementary schools, and church parking lots. These arrests are also often being made in public view, sometimes on main streets during rush hour or a Taco Bell parking lot. Videos of the arrests are frequently uploaded to Facebook, where they’re viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
“This is a signal to immigrants, immigration advocates, and attorneys that we have to prepare for the worst,” Bill Hing, an immigration law professor at the University of San Francisco, told Fusion.
Hing said the chances of an undocumented immigrant encountering ICE is still small, but this new data does show that immigration enforcement is different than it was in the last few years.
“[This data] also validates some of the widespread fear that we’re seeing in immigrant communities,” said Hing, who is also the director of the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic. Hing and his students have been hosting “know your rights” workshops for immigrants twice a week since Trump was elected.
That widespread fear of arrest and deportation hit immigrant communities as soon as Trump was elected. Police chiefs and prosecutors say they have seen an immediate drop in sexual assault and domestic abuse reports in Los Angeles, Houston, and Denver. In Los Angeles, the police chief believes fear of deportation has led to 25% fewer reports of sexual assault being reported in the Latinx community. In Houston, reports of rape are down 40% in Latinx neighborhoods.
At a news conference in April, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said this “looks like the beginnings of people not reporting crime, we should all be concerned.”
When Hing says immigrants should prepare for the worst, he’s referring to 2012, when at the Obama administration’s deportation efforts were in full effect, deporting an average of 1,122 immigrants per day, according to ICE data.
Immigration officials arrested an average of 425 immigrants each day during Trump’s first 100 days in office, according to ICE data reviewed by Fusion.
“These statistics reflect President Trump’s commitment to enforce our immigration laws fairly and across the board,” ICE acting director Thomas Homan said in a statement when the 100 day data was released.
Immigration attorneys are fearful of how the Trump administration has rid the well-oiled deportation machine it inherited from the previous administration of policies that allowed for some discretion.
For years, the Obama administration allowed people like Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an undocumented immigrant convicted of a non-violent offense, to check in with ICE and remain in the U.S. with her two citizen children in Phoenix. But in February, three weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, Garcia de Rayos became the face of Trump’s immigration crackdown when images of her on the way to be deported were broadcast across the country.
Past discretion in cases like Garcia de Rayos’ came from guidances issued in memos during the Obama administration. The unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents complained at the time about the memos, arguing they prevented them from doing their jobs. Those unions endorsed Trump during the election.
Hing said a lot of agents were just waiting to be unshackled from the Obama-era prosecutorial discretion memos to arrest more immigrants.
“Trump now has this army of ICE agents who have been chomping at the bits to get out there,” he said.
At a Senate hearing in April, Department of Homeland Security Director John Kelly said since he took office this year, morale in the agency has been up because “the rank-and-file [employees at DHS] have now been allowed to do their job.”
Advocates point to an uptick in what immigration officials call “collateral arrests”—or when undocumented immigrants who, other than being in the country illegally, have never committed a crime, are swept up in a raid because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time—as evidence of ICE’s rank-and-file now being “allowed to do their job.”
During Trump’s first 100 days in office, there were more than 10,800 immigrants detained who had never committed any crimes, compared to 4,200 in the same period in 2016, according to ICE.
“We’re seeing much more presence in the community and we’re seeing enforcement at sensitive locations, which has raised a lot of concerns about the administration,” Chris Rickerd, policy counsel in the ACLU’s National Political Advocacy Department, told Fusion.
Rickerd said the ACLU has received reports of ICE agents looking for a specific individual at jobs sites and apartment buildings and asking everyone at the location for immigration papers.
The drop in crime reports coming from the Latinx community in cities and towns across the country isn’t surprising to Rickerd in this environment.
“Clearly the community is reacting to, unfortunately, what may be the intended consequence, of just being more visible,” Rickerd said in a telephone interview.
The message is indeed getting to undocumented immigrants, loud and clear, according to Luis Serrano-Taha, a 29-year-old organizer with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance who came to the U.S. at the age of seven from Mexico.
“Lately there’s definitely a boldness and empowerment of ICE and immigration enforcement,” Serrano-Taha, who is in the U.S. illegally, told Fusion. “But if you really want to be fair, the war on immigrants has been happening for decades.”
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We’ll update if we hear back.