Many immigrants who the government knows are living in the U.S. illegally were not considered priorities for deportation during the Obama administration because of their clean criminal records or sympathetic cases. As the political climate changes, those immigrants — who were allowed to stay in the U.S. provided they checked in with ICE officials every six months to a year — now fear they’ll be handed notices of deportation at those check-ins, the Chicago Tribune reports. Under President Obama, immigration agents were ordered to target high-priority immigrants like violent criminals, and for the most part left everyone else alone. They often gave low-priority immigrants who didn’t have criminal histories more time, especially those with U.S.-born children, attorneys said. President Trump has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to move more aggressively to deport people who are in the U.S. illegally.
Some immigrants are now afraid to show up for their check-ins, unsure whether this will be the year that immigration agents detain or deport them. Some have gone to their check-ins and been released, like Elvira Arellano, an immigration activist whose year living inside a church a decade ago pushed her to the forefront of the nation’s immigration debate. A 50-year-old mother of six, Francisca Lino, who for years had no trouble during her check-ins, went to a check-in a few weeks ago and was handed a deportation notice. Lino, who was deported once before, was told to return to Chicago’s immigration office in July with packed suitcases and a plane ticket. Several immigration attorneys said stricter Department of Homeland Security policies have led to a change in how these check-ins are conducted. Some people living in the U.S. illegally are choosing to skip their check-ins altogether and go into hiding, preferring to live as fugitives with fixed targets on their backs than risk being deported. “What would you do?” said immigration attorney Kalman Resnick. “Go get deported, go to the horrible violence and poverty of much of Central America and Mexico, to horrible instability and no jobs?”