Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 41 foreign nationals in the five boroughs of New York and surrounding areas. The targets of these arrests were designated as criminal aliens, immigration fugitives, and those who re-entered after having been physically deported from the United States. Of the 41 arrested, 38 had some form of criminal convictions.
ICE claims that these arrests were part of routine operations; however, it is clear that arrests have increased since President Donald Trump took Office. ICE claims that some of those arrested will be additionally prosecuted by the federal authorities for illegal re-entry. Others will be placed in removal proceedings before a New York Immigration Judge. Similar enforcement operations occurred in Georgia, California, Texas, Carolinas, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri.
It is important that people understand their rights especially with increased immigration enforcement. Unless an ICE officer is in possession of an arrest warrant signed by a Judge, you do not have to open the door and let the officer enter your residence. If you are arrested, do not make any statements or sign any documents that ICE officers ask or pressure you to sign. You may be signing an agreement to be deported from the United States.
There is evidence that the government is gearing up for a marked increase in arrests and removal proceedings. The Executive Office for Immigration Review – the department tasked with administration of the Immigration Court – has recently hired immigration judges for assignment throughout the country. Prosecutorial discretion, which was utilized by ICE prosecutors, is no longer being considered in some parts of the country.
This discretion was often used to prioritize which individuals would be targeted for deportation proceedings and which would be permitted to remain in the United States even though they could not affirmatively apply for relief from removal. Often, those present in the United States for over 10 years and free from criminal activity were permitted to stay. Prosecutorial discretion for the past few years was liberally applied. Now, under the Trump administration, prosecutorial discretion is virtually non-existent.
As a former federal immigration prosecutor, I have seen enforcement priorities run the cycle from extreme to relaxed and in between. My suggestion to all non-citizens is to explore applying for United States citizenship, consult with an immigration attorney before accepting any plea in a criminal proceeding, and be proactive with your immigration status with the advice of a competent, honest, immigration attorney. With increased enforcement comes widespread panic and urgency and that is when some attorneys and non-attorneys take advantage of the vulnerable.
Pozo Goldstein, LLP offers free in-person consultations in all of our offices from New York to Florida.