The state of immigration, 2 years into Trump’s presidency

A look at all the ways the president has cracked down on immigration, by the numbers.

Over the last two years, Trump's racist and exclusionary policies have had disastrous affects on the U.S. immigration system. A glance at his administration's record, by the numbers, proves just how hard it has been hit. (Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Over the last two years, Trump's racist and exclusionary policies have had disastrous affects on the U.S. immigration system. A glance at his administration's record, by the numbers, proves just how hard it has been hit. (Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

From the onset of his campaign, President Donald Trump has made it a point to demonize black and brown immigrants.

In his June 2015 campaign announcement, then-candidate Trump described Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. During the campaign, he repeatedly called for a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Once president, Trump described Haitian and African immigrants as being from “shithole countries,” in discussions about the visa lottery system.

His harsh rhetoric has translated to anti-immigrant policies that have affected hundreds of thousands of people.

One week after his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order that effectively banned foreign nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days. Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which grants short-term protections for foreign nationals from countries affected by natural disasters or disease, is currently under attack by the administration. And in order to prevent primarily Central American immigrants from pursuing a better life in the United States, the Trump administration implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy at the border that resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents.


Trump also kickstarted a government shutdown last month over his demand for more than $5 billion in funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. His reasoning was largely rooted in the belief that immigrants were bringing drugs, violence, and diseases into the United States, despite having no evidence to back that up. The shutdown, now in its 30th day, has become the longest in U.S. history.

Over the last two years, Trump’s racist and exclusionary policies have had disastrous affects on the U.S. immigration system. A glance at his administration’s record, by the numbers, proves just how hard it has been hit.


The number of immigrants who have died in U.S. custody

Since President Trump took office, 22 immigrants have died while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Two immigrant children also died in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody this past December.


One of the immigrants who died in ICE custody was 33-year-old Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender Honduran woman who was part of a Central American migrant caravan making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border in April 2018. Hernandez died at a New Mexico hospital in May last year, after suffering from dehydration and complications related to HIV. Prior to her death, she had been held for days in a CBP holding cell before being transferred to an ICE facility.

The conditions inside those CBP holding cells are so intolerable, they have been nicknamed hieleras — “iceboxes” in Spanish — by those who have spent time in them. An autopsy report later showed that Hernandez had also allegedly been brutally beaten and abused at the ICE facility prior to her death.

Another of those immigrants, 40-year-old Efrain De La Rosa, a Mexican national who was held in an ICE detention facility in Georgia, killed himself in July 2018. His death was third at the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia in 15 months, according to nonprofit advocacy organization Project South.

Thirty-three-year-old Cuban detainee Yulio Castro Garrido also died of pneumonia at an ICE facility in Florida last January, and in December 2017, Kamiyar Samimi, an Iranian man, died from cardiac arrest while in ICE custody in Colorado.

The two children who died in CBP custody were both under the age of 10. Both were reported to have had high fevers and nausea prior to their deaths, with one child, 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, losing consciousness on the way to the hospital from the CBP facility, and the other, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, reportedly suffering a series of seizures and cardiac arrest on her way to the hospital after initially being taken to a CBP facility in New Mexico.

Immigration activist groups have blamed the conditions inside immigration detention facilities for the deaths of detainees. A 2017 report by Human Rights Watch highlighted poor conditions in detention centers across the United States, including major “lapses in health care that have led to severe suffering and at times the preventable or premature death of individuals.”


The number of immigrant children separated from their parents under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 2,737 children were placed into the agency’s care after the Department of Justice (DOJ) and DHS implemented Trump’s abusive “zero-tolerance” policy at the border last spring. These children were separated from their families and transferred to the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) while their parents were held in federal detention.


The immigrant youth shelters that housed separated children for weeks or even months are rife with allegations of abuse. Last August, an employee at immigrant youth shelter in Arizona was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing teen girl. A child psychologist told ProPublica the shelters were a “goldmine” for sexual predators.

A June 2018 court order later mandated the administration reunite the nearly 3,000 children with their parents, but the government only reunited families deemed “eligible.” One parent, for example, was deemed ineligible for immediate reunification because of an “outstanding warrant” for a DUI. Some parents, many of whom only speak Spanish or indigenous Central American dialects, were reportedly tricked by DHS into signing away their rights to be reunited with their children and were subsequently deported without them.

The 2,737 number, however, has a huge asterisk next to it, as the federal government cannot say with certainty exactly how many children were separated from their parents, due to its mishandling of detention tracking systems. A recent report from a government watchdog agency found that the government separated and released “thousands” of children before the June 2018 court order and does not know their whereabouts, as there was no concrete system in place to identify them and log their location.


The number of refugees allowed into the United States under Trump

The number of refugees allowed into the United States each year has been severely reduced in the Trump era. When he entered the White House in 2017, the refugee cap was at 110,000. Trump then lowered that cap to 50,000, and eventually to 45,000. Since that time, the cap has been lowered once more to just 30,000 — the lowest since the refugee program began in 1980.

Despite the diminished refugee resettlement numbers under Trump, the proportion of Europeans and individuals from the former Soviet Union is higher than previous years, confirming suspicions that the administration wants to restrict immigration to the whitest and most “Christian” applicants. Immigration hardliner Stephen Miller has been a close adviser to the president since his inauguration and reportedly played a leading role in slashing the refugee cap from the Obama administration’s 110,000 to 30,000.


The number of immigrants arrested by ICE since Trump took office

During the first two years of the Trump presidency, approximately 300,000 immigrants have been arrested by ICE.

ICE arrests at workplaces alone skyrocketed 640 percent this year, from 311 in 2017 to 2,304 in 2018, according to a year-end report from the agency. Some of the more high-profile raids include the arrest of 130 migrant workers in Minnesota and Nebraska, described by DHS as one of the largest raids in the agency’s 15-year history.

According to local media reports, during the raid, family members stood outside sobbing as ICE agents clad in bullet-proof vests stormed the facility, while state troopers blocked the entrance. One woman was turned away as she attempted to provide immigration papers for her boyfriend. Another desperately attempted to call her mother, who was working inside the facility.

In Ohio last summer, another 114 undocumented workers were arrested while working at a gardening shop. That raid was preceded by another on April 5, at a rural meatpacking plant in Tennessee. Officials arrested 94 workers during that raid.

The ICE arrests also included a number of sponsors who came forward to claim children separated from their parents at the border. From early July through early September last year, the agency arrested 41 undocumented sponsors, many of whom were the children’s own family members. Without their sponsors, undocumented immigrant children fell back into federal custody, maintaining the cycle of indefinite detention.

Emboldened by the Trump administration, ICE has targeted undocumented immigrants for everyday occurrences, including arresting a man during a marriage interview, a father preparing for his son’s baptism, and a mother with valid work visa.  Even the undocumented immigrants who follow the law by appearing before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at routine check-ins are not safe.


The number of current backlogged immigration cases (and counting)

While Trump likes to claim that the crisis at the southern border is the result of unchecked criminal immigration, the real crisis appears to be the record-high backlog of more than 800,000 cases awaiting their day in court. The figure rises to more than 1 million, if you include the ones the U.S. Attorney General wants on the docket.

The 800,000 number is the result of the administration’s attacks on the U.S. asylum system, the Trump administration’s decision to further restrict who is eligible to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the implementation of case quotas for immigration judges, and the decision to detain migrants at the border for longer amounts of time.

The Trump administration has specifically ramped up a process called metering, which puts an arbitrary cap on the number of asylum applications accepted each day at ports of entry. The cap can change from day to day and port to port. This policy has resulted in the construction of tent cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, with hundreds of families waiting an indeterminable amount of time just for the opportunity to apply.

The president’s demand for a border wall has worsened the problem, as the government shutdown brought immigration courts to a complete standstill. A study released by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) estimated that, since the start of the shutdown in December, more than 42,000 cases have been canceled. That number is likely to grow by 20,000 each additional week the government remains closed.

A longer backlog creates a number of difficulties for the immigrants who have scheduled their hearings years in advance, and have waited patiently for their day in court.

Immigration attorneys and judges are unsure of how or when the cases will be rescheduled. When a hearing is cancelled, the cases scheduled for that date don’t just roll over, a judge has to either push it to the back of the line or bump up some other cases. Compounding the problem, staffing is thin and no one is allowed to volunteer their time to work through the shutdown.