As arrests of illegal immigrants increase due to actions taken by President Donald Trump to enforce laws greatly ignored by Barack Obama, civil rights activists in Florida are issuing travel warnings and tips on how to avoid law enforcement.
A Florida immigration coalition composed of activist groups, such as the Council of American-Islamic Relations of Florida, the Women’s March, and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, are urging anyone who’s in the country illegally to “reconsider visiting Florida and especially recommended to avoid high-risk areas, including ports, airports, and Greyhound stations,” as reported by the Miami New Times.
Activists have staged events across the state to get out the word to illegal immigrants who are thinking about vacationing in Florida during Spring Break. They’re also posting information on which areas to avoid as cooperation has stepped up between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and 17 sheriffs across the state, a decision that has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order that expanded federal immigration enforcement to focus on anyone who has violated our immigration laws by coming here illegally, whether or not they have a criminal record. Obama focused mainly on those who had committed serious crimes.
ICE immigration arrests during Obama’s presidency dropped from 297,898 to 110,104. That number has already increased to 143,470 under Trump, which has pro-illegal immigration groups pushing back.
“We are taking the step of warning our communities that as the Florida lawmakers, state, local and federal do not take steps to push back against the anti-immigrant policies, we do not feel like our communities are safe in the state,” Tomas Kennedy, deputy political director at the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told The Orlando Sentinel.
Federal law enforcement has been tightening security in the 100-mile zone near all borders and coasts, leading to a significant increase in arrests. Since Trump was elected in 2016, arrests in Florida went up by 76 percent, according to ICE statistics.
Other states that have seen large increases in the last year are Texas and Oklahoma. According to ICE, the Dallas area had the highest number of arrests in 2017, followed by Houston and Atlanta. “Despite a 39% increase in arrests, the New York area of responsibility had among the fewest total ICE arrests in 2017 (roughly 2,600), even though it includes the New York City metro area – home to one of the nation’s largest unauthorized immigrant populations,” Pew Research reports.
Even though Trump’s executive order expands law enforcement’s focus to include illegal immigrants without a criminal history, most of the immigrants arrested last year had prior convictions. As reported by Pew:
Immigrants with past criminal convictions accounted for 74% of all arrests made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in fiscal 2017, according to data from the agency. The remainder were classified as “non-criminal” arrestees, including 16% with pending criminal charges and 11% with no known criminal convictions or charges. . . .
While ICE arrests overall rose from 2016 to 2017, arrests for those without prior convictions drove the increase. The number of arrestees without known convictions increased 146% (up more than 22,000 arrests), compared with a 12% rise among those with past criminal convictions (up nearly 11,000). Still, the bulk of those arrested in 2016 and 2017 had prior convictions.
The most common crimes committed by illegal immigrants included driving under the influence (16%) and possessing or selling “dangerous drugs,” such as opioids (15%). The most common pending criminal charges were general traffic offenses (17%), driving under the influence of alcohol (14%), having or selling drugs (13%), and immigration violations (7%).
“Assault ranked among the five most common pending criminal charges and conviction categories for ICE arrestees in 2017, accounting for 11% and 8% respectively,” Pew reports. Sexual assault, kidnapping, and homicide made up 1 percent for both pending and prior convictions.
We are unable to make a comparison on the types of criminal charges with data from previous years, because this is the first time ICE has collected and reported detailed information on criminality of those arrested.