For undocumented immigrants living in the Trump era, their zip code may be a stronger indicator of the deportation threat level they face than the length of their criminal record or when they first arrived in the U.S., The Intercept reports. Routine traffic stops are beginning to prove how broad President Trump’s definition of an “illegal criminal” is, and how that definition is being applied to the undocumented immigrants local police encounter in their day-to-day work. For regions with a history of racial tensions and hostility toward immigrants, local leaders now effectively have carte blanche to turn any interaction with police into the first step toward deportation. Gwinnett County, one of the most diverse regions in Georgia, has seen an uptick in the number of immigrants caught in removal proceedings by what started as a minor infraction. Local police there flagged nearly 500 people to federal officials for potential immigration violations between February and April. Only a small fraction of those were linked to charges of serious crime. Of all pending charges that accompanied the referrals, 70 percent were the result of traffic-related violations, most for driving without a license.
The arrests mark a nearly five-fold increase in the number of immigrants held for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Gwinnett County Jail over the same period last year. Between February and April 2016, local law enforcement referred just over 100 people to federal immigration authorities. Only 36 percent of accompanying charges were traffic related. “People would be pulled over six months ago, but it wouldn’t lead to an interaction with ICE,” said Tracie Klinke, an immigration attorney in Marietta, Georgia. “What we’ve seen over the last few months is a quiet resurgence where traffic stops are leading to contact with ICE.”