Few places in the U.S. have both beckoned undocumented immigrants and penalized them for coming like metropolitan Atlanta, a boomtown of construction and service jobs where conservative politics and new national policies have turned every waking day into a gamble for the undocumented, reports the New York Times. Immigration arrests are up more than 40 percent this year. While the Obama administration deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants, it directed agents to focus on arresting serious criminals and recent arrivals. The current administration has erased those guidelines, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to arrest and deport anyone here illegally. The regional ICE office in Atlanta made nearly 80 percent more arrests in the first half of this year than it did in the same period last year, the largest increase of any field office.
Local sheriffs and the police work with federal agents to identify and detain immigrants, a model of cooperation that the Trump administration is trying to expand. Every few hours, an unauthorized immigrant is booked into a county jail on charges as serious as assault and as minor as failing to signal a turn. The jail alerts ICE, contrary to what happens in sanctuary cities, where local authorities refuse to turn immigrants over to the federal agency except in cases involving the gravest crimes. Atlanta’s immigrants can do little but hide. At strip-mall taquerias and fruit stands, business has lagged. Word of arrests flows through neighborhood phone trees, and Facebook has become an early-warning system for people desperate for clues about where ICE is operating. As the Trump administration pushes toward tougher immigration enforcement, the Atlanta area offers a glimpse of what could be.