Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union Tribune, July 3, 2017
The number of targeted immigration arrests in San Diego has returned to levels from before former President Barack Obama changed enforcement priorities in late 2014.
That’s in large part because of the broadened priorities mandated by President Donald Trump in a January executive order, according to Greg Archambeault, San Diego field office director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations.
Obama’s priorities focused on people convicted of felonies or multiple misdemeanors. Trump’s policy includes people charged with any level of crime and those who have final orders of removal, meaning an immigration judge has already signed off on their deportations.
“All we’re trying to do is protect the community and remove the threats,” Archambeault said.
Since Trump’s immigration policy changes, news stories about immigrants being picked up by officers in unmarked, gray SUVs have spread quickly from coast to coast. The ICE team responsible for those targeted arrests is called fugitive operations.
From February through May of this year, San Diego’s fugitive operations team arrested 547 people, according to data from ICE. That’s more than double the total for the same months last year, at 242, or the year before, at 267. In 2014, before Obama narrowed immigration enforcement’s priorities, San Diego’s fugitive operations team arrested 540 people in the same time frame.
“We’re still focusing on criminals, but we’re not confined to them,” said Clinton Johnston, assistant field office director for Enforcement and Removal Operations in San Diego. “It’s the ability for us to enforce the law across the board.”
The team works in groups, investigating the lives of people ICE believes are removable from the U.S. The groups go out daily to knock on doors and try to pick up their targets. They are allowed to knock anytime between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and they frequently start their work days before 6 a.m. so that they can be outside their first stop when the clock strikes six.