ICE Grabbing Legal Immigrants too
In the feature It’s not just criminals — ICE is nabbing lawful permanent residents too, the Los Angeles Times looks at how legal immigrants are being swept up in the Trump administration’s anti-immigration furor:
In 2001, Jose Luis Garcia was convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Whatever tumult it caused within his family, the event seemed to fade with every passing year as Garcia became a grandfather and inched closer toward retirement.
Earlier this month, the nearly 20-year-old conviction came roaring back when immigration agents arrested the 62-year-old as he drank coffee and watered the lawn of his Arleta home.
His daughter, Natalie Garcia, thought there must be a mistake. Her father has been a lawful permanent resident since 1988. He carries his green card in his wallet.
“We thought this was happening to people like they said — criminals, the gang members,” she said in an interview between sobs.
Legal immigrants in the U.S. have never been completely protected from possible deportation. But in its war against illegal immigration, the Trump administration has lowered the bar for whom immigration agents can go after, experts say.
President Trump has vowed to crack down on immigrants with criminal records, saying they should be deported to their home countries. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have carried out a series of sweeps in California this year, detaining hundreds of people. While there has been much emphasis on the arrest of people who don’t have criminal records but are here illegally, the arrest of legal immigrants who have convictions deep in their pasts has gotten less attention.
“They are going to go after anybody they can get their hands on who may be deportable,” said Michael Kaufman, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. “That leads to cases like Mr. Garcia’s, where you have somebody who has lived in the country for decades. He may have committed a crime a long time ago, but he has rehabilitated himself and he’s fully an upstanding member of his community and key support for his family.”
Because their information is logged into multiple government systems, permanent legal residents can be an easier quarry for enforcement — though the overwhelming majority of people targeted for deportation are in the country illegally.