Trump’s calls for unprecedented amounts of funding for ICE continues the administration’s attack on immigrants

The Trump administration has unleashed an attack against the nation’s immigrants. It started by going after the undocumented population, focusing on law-abiding people with longstanding roots in the country. Today, this has evolved to much more.

U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

When Latino and immigrant rights advocates raise concerns about the “deportation machine,” they mean providing U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with unprecedented levels of funding to arrest, detain, and deport longtime members of our communities. This includes potentially going after residents with protections that the Trump administration recently terminated for more than one million documented people under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.

For the first time in our country’s history, our government is going to extreme lengths to increase the undocumented population by revoking the lawful status of millions of immigrants. Alarmingly, some U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents have been caught in the dragnet as well, escalating concerns about racial profiling among Latino communities across the country.

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In our last blog post on immigration enforcement, we discussed how it’s important to pay attention to the government’s budgets because of the impact they can have on our community. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) deals with border enforcement. ICE is the agency with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that is generally responsible for targeting, arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented people inside the United States.

What’s in Trump’s FY2019 request for ICE?

President Trump’s FY2019 budget provides more than $570 million to significantly increase the number of ICE deportation officers working to arrest, detain, and deport people in the country. In addition, President Trump’s budget calls for total funding of $2.7 billion for 52,000 (49,500 for single adults and 2,500 for families) detention beds, a nearly 25% increase over current levels.

What does that mean?

Trump’s FY2019 request calls for 3,312 new positions, 2,000 of which are intended to help reach the goal of 10,000 deportation officers that the president ordered during his first month in office.

To put that number in perspective, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations—home to the country’s deportation officers—currently has about 5,800 total employees.

Is there a need for this investment?


The president’s request would swell the ranks of deportation officers, a proposition that the DHS inspector general has repeatedly questioned over the past year.

Who is ICE arresting now?

Not criminals.

In 2017, between the time Trump took office and the end of the fiscal year, ICE arrests spiked 42% over the same period of the year before. ICE recorded an astounding 171% increase in the number of people arrested without criminal convictions during the same time.

Where are people being arrested by ICE?

Often when they go in to check in with ICE—which previously didn’t happen.

Under the Trump administration, this has meant ICE is targeting people on their “non-detained” court docket for deportation. Those who are checking in regularly are especially at risk, as well as those who are easy to locate, and those who can be immediately deported without much legal recourse.

Has this had an impact on public safety?

Yes – but in the complete opposite way that the Trump administration would have us believe.

The time that ICE uses to go after people who do not have criminal records is time that could be used locating those that pose actual public safety threats like convicted criminals and those with convictions related to gang affiliation. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, have reported that in this climate, fewer Latinos are coming forward to report crimes like sexual assault. This makes us all less safe.

UnidosUS joined DREAmers and advocates on January 19, 2018 for a Capitol Hill press conference condemning lawmakers for blocking a vote on Dream Act legislation. Photo: UnidosUS
UnidosUS joined DREAmers and advocates on January 19, 2018 for a Capitol Hill press conference condemning lawmakers for blocking a vote on Dream Act legislation. Photo: UnidosUS

Is there a chance that U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents could be caught in ICE’s crosshairs?

Yes, and some have been already.

A growing number of accounts have surfaced of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents getting caught up in ICE’s aggressive enforcement practices, raising alarms about racial profiling in Latino and immigrant communities across the country. Unprecedented funding for more deportation officers could lead to more of these unwarranted incidents.

What should I know about the increases request for ICE detention?

As noted above, President Trump’s budget calls for total funding of $2.7 billion for 52,000 detention beds, a nearly 25% increase over current levels.

With fewer people being detained at the border as we discussed in the last blog installment, this request gives ICE the resources it needs to increase enforcement against undocumented people living in the interior. Their current priorities indicate that those who are at risk of being detained are those people who do not have criminal records.

In FY2017, CBP apprehended the fewest people attempting to illegally enter the country in more than 50 years, leading to a 25% drop in the number of people in ICE custody who were originally arrested by the Border Patrol. However, with detention beds to spare, the number of people arrested by ICE from inside the country increased by 29% during that period.

What else can we learn from ICE’s funding?

For the second half of FY2017, and well into FY2018 when the government was running on continuing resolutions, ICE was funded to use an average of 39,000 detention beds per day (up from 34,000).

Unfortunately, the FY2018 appropriation supports this increase in maintaining this level through September 2018, providing the Trump administration with a powerful immigration enforcement tool to carry out their aggressive enforcement agenda.

Congress should not reward policies that make us less safe. The Trump administration’s request for an increase in funding for detention beds and more deportation officers is a concern for our community, and we should continue to be vigilant as next year’s budget is debated by Congress.

By Carlos Guevara, Senior Policy Advisor, and Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

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