Immigration agents allowed to go after any undocumented immigrant are arresting more people throughout the U.S., an increase fueled by rounding up people without criminal records, according to federal data released Thursday.
Over the first full 14 months of the Trump administration, 69% of undocumented immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had a criminal record. Over the final two years of the Obama administration, that number was 86%.
ICE agents have arrested an average of 4,143 undocumented immigrants without a criminal record each month under the Trump administration. In the final two years under Obama, the agents averaged 1,703 a month.
Those numbers show the radical change in immigration enforcement implemented by President Trump, who issued new directives to ICE shortly after taking office in January 2017.
Previously, ICE agents were told to prioritize their efforts on undocumented immigrants with serious criminal histories, including felonies, multiple misdemeanors, gang convictions, or other factors that made them a threat to public safety. Despite his campaign vow to go after "bad hombres," Trump instructed ICE to arrest any undocumented immigrant its agents encountered, which has led to the sharp increase.
Corey Price, assistant director of enforcement for ICE, said it's wrong to call any undocumented immigrant a "non-criminal" since they either entered the country illegally or stayed in the country after the expiration of their visa. He said that shift in approach has allowed his agents to drive up their arrest numbers, nabbing both convicted criminals and those who have violated immigration laws, "all of which are federal crimes."
"Our scope was significantly narrow (under Obama)," Price said. "Obviously the aperture has been opened."
Critics of the administration say rounding up thousands of undocumented immigrants who are working, contributing to their communities and staying out of trouble is not only a waste of federal resources, but part of a larger effort to demonize immigrants.
Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said Trump has repeatedly tried to wrap all immigrants under a blanket of terrorism and gang violence. Trump's comments on Wednesday, when he referred to some undocumented immigrants as "animals," was just the latest example of that strategy, Jawetz said.
"You want to talk about refugees? He talks about ISIS. You want to talk about people fleeing violence and persecution? He talks about MS-13," Jawetz said. "Ultimately the goal is both mass deportation of people who are here, and closing down our borders to those who still want to come, and the way you carry out that policy effort, from his perspective, is to drive fear as much as possible."
Supporters of the president's immigration stance call those numbers proof of a campaign pledge fulfilled. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said ICE agents had been wrongly restrained under Obama. In order to have a lawful immigration system, Krikorian said, ICE agents must go after all immigration violators, not just those who committed additional crimes once they entered the country.
"It's kind of like the IRS: if the only people they audited were Colombian drug dealers and Russian mobsters, then they're not doing their job because part of their job is routine oversight and compliance with the law," he said.
The California Highway Patrol reported an increase in arrests for suspected drunk driving in San Diego County as its Memorial Day holiday enforcement period continued Sunday. CHP officers arrested 57 people for drunken driving violations in the county from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday, an officer said.
Firefighters were able to put out a brush fire in Lemon Grove Sunday evening, but several homes and part of the trolley infrastructure in the area were damaged in the blaze.
It's a sight no one with small children or pets wants to see: a group of bobcats strolling through a residential neighborhood. Bobcats were recently spotted in a 4S Ranch neighborhood and Sunday morning one resident captured video of them.
Two men accused of breaking into North County businesses were behind bars Sunday - and the businesses hit over the weekend might not be the first places they broke into. The two allegedly broke into a pizza place and a Thai restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, but were caught nearby.
A hit-and-run accident early Sunday morning left two passengers injured and the driver was at large, according to the San Diego Police Department. An unidentified female driver in her 50s was driving with a 39-year-old male passenger in the front and a 79-year-old male passenger who was asleep and unrestrained in the back seat.
An airline flight out of San Diego was diverted to Phoenix due to reports of an unknown odor in the cabin Sunday.
A 33-year-old woman was killed in a single-vehicle crash Sunday in the Oak Park community of San Diego.
A suspect remains at large after an argument led to a man being slashed with a knife in Lakeside on Saturday night, deputies said.
A 30-year-old man in the North Park community of San Diego suffered non-life threatening injuries Sunday when he was struck by a hit-and-run motorist who abandoned his vehicle, police said.
Cooler than normal temperatures continued through the weekend. Warmer and sunnier conditions are expected Monday and Tuesday away from the coast.