SEATTLE — The Trump Administration is casting a wider net to get undocumented immigrants out of the country. Border Patrol arrests hit a 45-year low, but arrests away from the border made by ICE agents since President Donald Trump took office jumped 40%.
“We have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out,” candidate Trump said in October 2016.
It was a campaign rallying cry for Trump. Now president, he’s making good on his promise to rid the country of undocumented immigrants.
“When he became president, we were worried — because that’s what they were saying, it would be really bad,” said Federal Way’s Kristen Thompson, who is married to an undocumented immigrant.
Those fears were realized when Thompson’s Mexican husband Arturo Gordiano was arrested in a September sweep in Federal Way by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
“They stop me and went all around me and point me a gun and said get out your car and you have a warrant,” said undocumented immigrant Gordiano.
Gordiano is just one of more than 41,000 undocumented immigrants detained since Trump took office. According to ICE officials, 75% of them are convicted criminals.
Gordiano illegally entered the country and got a DUI in 2007. He was deported. He then returned to the U.S. illegally for a second time, choosing not to apply for a family petition that could have gotten him here legally.
“You have to go back for a certain amount of years and apply and wait and it takes a lot of money. We already had a life and kids. It just wasn’t possible for us,” Thompson said.
“There are long waiting lists and even though I’m a lawful permanent resident, if I file a petition for my brother he might not be able to complete that process for 15 or 20 years, depending on where he’s living,” said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Adams said our country’s immigration system is almost as confusing as our nation’s tax code. Adams said lawmakers haven’t made significant changes to immigration law since the 1950s. Now, 11 million undocumented immigrants call the United States home.
“There’s a level of anxiety that I haven’t seen in the 20 years that I’ve been working in immigration law,” said Adams.
In 2003, the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma only held a couple hundred detainees. Now 1,500 are held there and experts say it’s all because of the changes in immigration policy.
“What’s changed is that it’s been just widespread, indiscriminate enforcement. There’s no longer a prioritization. There’s no longer a consideration of individual factors,” Adams said.
So deportation and separation may be the fate for more families.
“I don’t know. I just feel sad just thinking about it,” said Mikaela Thompson, reflecting on when her father was detained.
ICE released a statement saying in part, “ICE agents and officers have been given clear direction to focus on threats to public safety and national security, which has resulted in a substantial increase in the arrest of convicted criminal aliens. However, when we encounter others who are in the country unlawfully, we will execute our sworn duty and enforce the law.”
“We’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out. We’re getting real bad dudes out of this country,” Trump has proclaimed.
“I think they should be getting the criminals, but not the good people,” said Kristen Thompson.
Gordiano considers himself one of the good guys.
“We try to be good and be like a normal family, you know? Live a regular life like everyone,” said Gordiano.
Gordiano is trying to apply for asylum to stay in the United States. He says his hometown is controlled by the Mexican drug cartels and he would be in danger if he had to return. Right now, he’s out in bail.