After the executive orders come the enforcement actions. And now, the tallies are starting to come in. In the last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested more than 600 undocumented immigrants across 11 states, The New York Times reported Monday. The multi-state operation is the first major sweep cracking down on undocumented immigrants since President Donald Trump signed an executive order on his sixth day in office expanding the categories of undocumented immigrants who’d be prioritized for deportation.
One hundred and sixty immigrants were arrested in the Los Angeles area; some 200 undocumented immigrants were arrested in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina this past week. Roughly 40 were arrested in New York—those numbers were released Sunday morning in a leaked ICE document published by the New York Immigration Coalition. ICE confirmed Sunday afternoon that the factsheet was legitimate. Another 200 people were arrested throughout the Midwest: in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
“The focus of these operations is no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis,” ICE spokesperson Rachael Yong Yow told The Nation on Sunday.
In other words, ICE considers this week of high enforcement activity business as usual. But sorting out what’s business as usual in the dawning days of the Trump administration is the vexing question before immigration watchers now.
The Trump administration did not invent the concept of immigration raids, after all. Some of the most high-profile were undertaken during George W. Bush’s administration; his ICE agents arrested more than 1,600 immigrants in the final years of his tenure by staging terrifying raids on meat-processing plants in rural Midwestern states. One 2008 raid in Postville, Iowa, ended with the arrest of 400 undocumented immigrants.
And the Obama administration, too, in an attempt to deter desperate Central Americans who were arriving at the US-Mexico border to seek asylum, announced in late 2015 that it too would initiate raids. ICE arrested 121 people in an operation conducted in the first days of 2016, aimed at newly arrived Central Americans. The Obama administration even gave immigrant communities a heads-up with leaked announcements ahead of time. And even then, multi-day enforcement operations were not uncommon for the Obama administration. This past summer, for example, 112 people were arrested in a four-day operation throughout Los Angeles.
And of course, President Obama presided over record-breaking deportations as president—often without the use of the headline-grabbing scare tactics that the Bush administration favored. Determining whether this past week’s efforts are more akin to the raids of the Bush era or the enforcement sweeps of Obama’s—or if they mark the beginning of something brand new altogether—is what’s harder to parse.