The immigrant community has been on tenterhooks since Donald Trump was elected, and with good reason. There have been increased raids by ICE, detentions of domestic violence victims, threats of funding cuts to sanctuary cities, and Trump’s travel ban that threw families into chaos. Now new data shows that this spring the Trump administration has opened almost 900 more cases than President Obama did in the same span, many of them involving immigrants, regardless of their criminal records or rates of recidivism.
Reuters analyzed data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (or EOIR) and found that prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases between March 1 and May 31. An ICE spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that immigration courts were specifically returning to cases in which the party in question had “since been arrested for or convicted of a crime.” That’s in line with Trump’s rhetoric on the dangers immigrants pose to American citizens, and isn’t a marked departure from the Obama administration’s own policies on deportations. But where it does differ is that prosecutors are also reopening cases of immigrants who have stayed on the straight and narrow.
It’s hard to tell just how many cases of those that are back on the table are for immigrants who haven’t recently broken the law. Reuters couldn’t access the details of all the cases, only 32 made available by involved attorneys. But of those 32, all but ten involved immigrants whose attorneys indicated that, though they might have been involved in criminal activity in the past, haven’t reoffended. Six involved minor traffic violations.
There’s also the fact that these are just the cases in which motions have already been filed. Momentum is growing in states 32 states, mostly those with with larger immigrant populations, to reopen further closed cases. Reuters found that over two dozen motions were filed in a couple days at the New Orleans ICE office alone.Many of the newly reopened cases are ones shelved by the Obama administration.
The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges told Reuters that despite those cases being taken off the docket, there is already a record breaking number of cases pending, not counting these newly reopened files.
It seems the Trump administration has been preparing for this uptick in immigration cases and deportations, however. In March, during the period of data examined by Reuters, the Department of Homeland Security indicated it would be expanding detention facilities and taking a more hardline stance on how it dealt with illegal immigrants, including children and families. Those 16,000 new beds might be filled sooner rather than later.