More than 21,000 undocumented immigrants have been arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from January to mid March, Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post reported. She attributed this to agents now being able to arrest not only undocumented people with criminal histories, but almost any undocumented immigrant regardless of whether they have a criminal past.
Immigration arrests have risen 32.6 percent since last year, when 16,104 people were arrested in the same time frame.
The Post reported that "Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States."
Immigration advocates say that a culture of fear created by expanded agent powers has had an impact on how immigrants report crimes committed against them as well, noting a decrease in the number of reports of sexual assault and other crimes in cities with large immigrant communities like Los Angeles and Houston.
According to Sacchetti, the ICE office credited with arresting the most immigrants with no criminal record is in Atlanta, with close to 700 arrests, a startling uptick from last year’s 137 arrests. The largest percentage increase comes from the Philadelphia office, however, which has arrested six times as many immigrants as the previous year.
Carlos A. Gimenez, Republican mayor of Florida’s Miami-Dade, noted that there have been more immigration protests in the city under Trump than he saw under former President Barack Obama. He said, "It’s all got to do with the president…Most of it has to do with politics. It’s sad."
Interestingly, even with the previous protections, government data indicates that Obama deported more people than any other president, with close to three million people being removed from the country between 2009 and 2015. He edged out his predecessor, George W. Bush, who oversaw the deportation of just over two million people during his tenure.
This statistic led some advocacy groups to label Obama the "Deporter In Chief."
On the campaign trail Trump accused immigrants from Mexico of being criminals, drug dealers and rapists, using this claim as justification for the proposed construction of a wall along the southern border to mitigate the flow of undocumented people into the US.
This continues to be a popular idea among Trump supporters and the far-right. After Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airbase recently, a protest led by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer featured chants like "We wants walls, not war!"