Priorities Change Quickly For U.S. Immigration Agents

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The Trump administration’s plan to arrest and deport vast numbers of undocumented immigrants has been introduced in dramatic fashion. Much of that task has fallen to thousands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement  officers who are newly emboldened, newly empowered and already getting to work, the New York Times reports. Gone are Obama-era rules that required them to focus only on serious criminals. In Southern California, officers detained 161 people with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor convictions, and 10 who had no criminal history at all. “Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did,” said a 10-year agency veteran. “Now those people are priorities again. And there are a lot of them here.”

Interviews with 17 agents and officials, in states including Florida, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Washington and California, demonstrated how quickly a new atmosphere in the agency had taken hold.  “Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said after President Trump issued executive orders on immigration last month. A whirlwind of activity has overtaken ICE headquarters in recent weeks, with employees attending back-to-back meetings about how to carry out Trump’s plans  quickly. “Some people are like: ‘This is great. Let’s give them all the tools they need,’” said a senior staff member who joined the department under the administration of George W. Bush. “Othe people are a little bit more hesitant and fearful about how quickly things are moving.”

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