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Dallas ICE agents arrest a man in March 2017.
Dallas ICE agents arrest a man in March 2017.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

North Texas ICE Raid Highlights Differences in Trump, Obama Immigration Enforcement

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested nearly 100 people during a recently concluded 10-day sting targeting North Texas and Oklahoma, the agency announced Wednesday, continuing a trend  in Texas throughout 2018.

According to ICE, its "enforcement action" was intended to sweep up "criminal aliens and immigration violators" in the area for which the agency's Dallas office is responsible. Of the 98 people picked up by ICE during the 10-day operation, 67 had prior criminal convictions, according to the agency. Eighty-seven men and 11 women were arrested, ranging in age from 19 to 62.

Arrests were made across North Texas. Eleven people were picked up in Dallas, the most of any city involved in the raids, but arrests were made throughout the DFW suburbs, too, including Carrollton, Denton, Frisco, Garland, Grapevine and Arlington.

In a press release, ICE then lists crimes for which those arrested had been previously convicted, the fact that five of the 98 are "confirmed and documented gang members," and provides four biographical snippets like the following:

Sept. 19 – ICE officers arrested a 28-year-old man from El Salvador who has an active Interpol warrant naming him as the leader of an MS-13 clique. He has warrants in El Salvador for acts of terrorism related to homicide, extortion and drug crimes. He remains in ICE custody pending his removal proceedings.

Then there's a quote from Marc J. Moore, field office director of enforcement and removal operations for ICE in Dallas.

“By removing criminal aliens from the streets during this North Texas and Oklahoma operation, our ICE officers provide a valuable community service by enhancing public safety,” Moore said. “These ongoing daily operations also help maintain the integrity of our immigration laws.”

Finally, the ICE explains how there were 98 arrests, despite only 67 of those who were arrested having been previously convicted of a crime.

"During targeted enforcement operations, ICE officers frequently encounter other aliens illegally present in the United States. These aliens are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and, when appropriate, they are arrested by ICE officers," the agency says.

Press releases from other operations in Texas this year are eerily similar. In March, Dallas ICE officers arrested 89 people during an "enforcement action" intended to sweep up "criminal aliens and immigration violators."

Again, 67 people of the 89 arrested had criminal charges and, again, ICE lists all the towns in which they made arrests before providing a laundry list of those crimes.

After the biographical sketches, there's a quote from Simona L. Flores, Moore's predecessor as field office director of enforcement and removal operations for ICE in Dallas.

“This North Texas and Oklahoma operation removed 67 criminal aliens from our streets and our communities,” Flores said. “In addition to this valuable community service, our ICE officers also help maintain the integrity of our immigration laws."

Finally, there's the explanation for why the number of those arrested in a sting on "criminal aliens" exceeds the number of people who had previous criminal charges.

"During targeted enforcement operations, ICE officers frequently encounter other aliens illegally present in the United States. These aliens are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and, when appropriate, they are arrested by ICE officers," the agency says, again.

In February, ICE made 145 arrests in South and Central Texas, and the story was exactly the same.

A similar press release put out by ICE during President Barack Obama's administration highlights the differences in the way ICE enforces immigration law under President Donald Trump.

In December 2012, ICE arrested 90 people in Central and South Texas as part of a sting called Operation Bear III. Again, in the agency's words, the operation was targeting "criminal aliens," but this time, each of the 90 people arrested had prior criminal convictions.

The same list of charges and biographical sketches are there, too, but the statement at the bottom of the release explaining what happened is noticeably different.

"ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that targets serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities, such as those charged with or convicted of homicide, rape, robbery, kidnapping, major drug offenses and threats to national security," the agency said.

The change in tone and enforcement isn't an accident. Earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton explained to reporters why ICE arrested 46,000 people without criminal records in 2017, a 171 percent increase over 2016, Obama's last year in office.

"We target criminal aliens, but we're not going to exempt an entire class of (non)citizens," Houlton said.

In a statement this summer, ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez said anyone in the country without documents is subject to being arrested by the agency and deported.

"All of those in violation of immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States," she said in a statement.

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