(As seen on WZZM TV 13)In the past few months, immigration has been an increasingly hot topic discussed around dinner tables, law offices, school campuses and, especially, in the United States Congress.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 143,470 illegal immigrants were placed under administrative arrests in the United States during the 2017 fiscal year. That was a 30 percent increase from 110,104 in 2016.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations field office located in Detroit covers Michigan and Ohio, and reported 3,409 undocumented immigrants were subject to administrative arrests during the 2017 fiscal year and 3,203 individuals were deported in both states.
The numbers have increased compared to the same period in 2016, when there were a total of 2,241 arrests made and 2,056 illegal individuals were deported, according to ICE. Both the 2017 and 2016 fiscal years include illegal immigrants with and without criminal records.
While there hasn’t been a drastic increase in Michigan, Meghan Moore, an immigration attorney at Avanti Law Group PLLC located in Wyoming, said there is fear and panic in the region.
“ICE is everywhere, and they are much more active,” Moore said. “They are picking up people who don't have criminal records, and that is the biggest change we are seeing in West Michigan. People who have been here for many years, have children here, are being picked up and put into deportation proceedings, and that is something that did not happen previously.”
For the 2017 fiscal year, ICE reported 1,101 unauthorized immigrants without a criminal background were arrested and a total of 1,570 were deported from Michigan and Ohio.
Moore said the deportation numbers can be higher than the arrest numbers because it accounts for individuals who were arrested in the previous fiscal year but were not yet deported, as well as individuals who were involved in immigration court proceedings during that time but lost their case in the 2017 fiscal year and as a result were deported in 2017.
That also is the case for the 2016 fiscal year. There were 487 administrative arrests made and 725 ICE removals made across both states.
The change came shortly after President Donald Trump took office. On Jan. 25, 2017, five days after the president was sworn in, he signed an executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” authorizing the Department of Homeland Security to implement enforcement and removal policies.
Stricter immigration laws have proven to be more difficult for undocumented immigrants, Moore said.
“A lot of the other changes that we’ve seen this year have to do with immigration courts, where bonds are harder to get. We’re fighting against ICE,” Moore said. “They are the prosecutors that we fight against. Previously, they would be more willing to stipulate some things or join me in a motion with a judge. They are unwilling to do that now. They are tougher against people seeking asylum. I think that they assume every asylum application submitted is fraudulent.”
According to the American Immigration Council, the U.S. Immigration law only allows 675,000 permanent immigrants into the United States each year.
One of the hot topics surrounds Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows children who arrived in the United States illegally with their parents to stay in the country. Moore said there is an uncertainty in the policy.
In February, a federal court placed a preliminary injunction on DACA, which prevents families from filing new applications for their children, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Therefore, those undocumented children are subject to removal from the country even though their parents may be legal residents or naturalized citizens.
“I am constantly getting phone calls from schools that are looking for some type of reassurance or some public education for parents who are afraid,” Moore said. “They are not sending their kids to school because they are worried that ICE is going to be there to get them.”
There is only one U.S. Immigration Court in Michigan, which is in Detroit, but there are two ICE detention facilities in the state. The closest facility in West Michigan is Calhoun County Correctional Center in Battle Creek.