Trump unshackles deportation force

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Under President Donald Trump’s new guidelines, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are stepping up raids, roundups and deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Fulfilling his promise to “take the shackles off” ICE and Border Patrol Agents, the thugs in uniform have been given the green light.

A February 26 New York Times front page article was headlined: “Agents Discover a New Freedom on Deportations, Emboldened by Trump.”

A subhead read: “Quick Shift as Officers Expand Targets and Start Roundups.”

The article began: “In Virginia, [ICE] agents waited outside a church shelter where undocumented immigrants had gone to stay warm. In Texas and Colorado, agents went into courthouses, looking for foreigners who had arrived for hearings on other matters.

“At Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers arriving after a five-hour flight from San Francisco were asked to show their documents before they were allowed to get off the plane.”

Passengers on domestic flights are only required to have photo ID, not passports, birth certificates or any other proof of citizenship.

Such incidents are occurring across the country. I learned from Latino friends of two examples in Latino areas in the cities of Palo Alto and San Mateo near where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. In what is known as East Palo Alto, to distinguish it from the largely white section that includes the prestigious Stanford University, ICE agents stopped every car with Latino occupants.

I wouldn’t have known of these two raids if my friends hadn’t told me — the media ignored them. While Trump attacks much of the mainstream media for anything he claims is negative about him, the fact is that with some exceptions (like the NYT piece), there has been very little coverage of this deportation campaign in the capitalist press, and virtually none on the TV networks or stations like CNN.

The NYT article continued: “In Southern California, in one of the first major roundups during the administration, officers detained 161 people with a wide range of felony and misdemeanour convictions, and 10 who had no criminal history at all.”

Amy Goodman, host of the Democracy Now! TV and radio show, reported on February 22: “The White house is moving to expand the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and to increase the number of ICE and Border Patrol agents … Almost any undocumented person in the country could be detained and deported, even if they’ve never committed a crime.

“A traffic violation or mere suspicion of committing a crime could now be grounds for deportation. Any immigrant who cannot prove they’ve been in the United States for over two years could be deported without a hearing.

“Any migrant, regardless of nationality, who crosses the southern border will be deported to Mexico while they await deportation hearings.”

For the time being, the only exceptions are for the immigrants who were brought into the country as children that former President Barack Obama said would not be deported. But that could change at the whim of the White House.

Cesar Vargas, co-director of the DREAM Action Coalition, told Democracy Now!: “We are seeing now a deportation force on steroids. The deportation force was created with George Bush, and strengthened with President Obama, who deported more people than any [previous] President.

“Donald Trump has taken the keys of this deportation machine, and refuelling it and taking it over 100 miles per hour, really aggressively pursuing and targeting every immigrant …”

The NYT quoted an ICE agent who took part in the raid in Southern California, “Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did.

“Now those people are priorities again. And there are a lot of them here.”

The article also quotes a joint statement of the “unions” representing ICE and Border Patrol agents: “Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders.”

Such organisations representing the police, ICE and the Border Patrol have, historically, been hotbeds of the extreme right, and are so today. The police associations all across the US, with very few exceptions, endorsed Trump’s presidential campaign — as did the associations representing ICE and the Border Patrol agents.

The NYT reported: “A whirlwind of activity has overtaken ICE headquarters in recent weeks, with employees attending back-to-back meetings about how to carry out President Trump’s plans. ‘Some people are like: This is great. Let’s give them all the tools they need,’ said a senior staff member at headquarters…

“Two officials in Washington said that the shift — and the new enthusiasm that has come with it — seems to have encouraged pro-Trump political comments and banter as brazen or gung-ho, like remarks about their jobs becoming ‘fun’. Those who take less of a hard line on unauthorised immigrants feel silenced …”

The anti-immigrant campaign is just the start. Its aim is to frighten and intimidate not only the undocumented, but their families and friends. Most in the Latino communities have ties to undocumented migrants.

Trump’s plans require a significantly larger deportation force. Trump is proposing to enlarge ICE by 50% — from 20,000 to 30,000 agents — and increase the Border Patrol by 5000. It will take time to recruit and train agents on this scale. The effort will gradually step up, until it reaches the huge scale of millions of deportations Trump wants.

Will his projections materialise? That depends on how large the counter-mobilisation becomes.