Trump’s immigration enforcement policy in action

Vivian Yee of the New York Times has written an account of immigration enforcement under the Trump administration in Atlanta, a non-sanctuary city. Yee reports that 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 in the country.

It has done so with cooperation from local sheriffs and the police, who are working with federal agents to identify and detain immigrants. Yee correctly calls this “the model of cooperation that the Trump administration is rapidly trying to expand throughout the country.”

But what about deportations, as opposed to arrests, in Atlanta? Yee doesn’t provide deportation data. Instead, she provides anecdotes. Here is the main one:

Parked outside their target’s home in Norcross, northeast of Atlanta, in the pre-dawn blackness, the ICE agents watched the neighborhood blink awake, bedroom light by bedroom light.

Inside the small house was a 48-year-old school maintenance supervisor named David Martinez-Samano, who had a pair of felony convictions for domestic violence from 1996 and 1997, plus a rape charge that a plea bargain reduced to a lesser charge. He had served time in prison and had been deported to Mexico twice. . . .

Mr. Martinez-Samano’s window glowed at 6:09 a.m. A little later, his wife emerged to walk one of their daughters to the school bus.

Then his Honda Civic shivered to life. As he headed for a turn, the blue lights of the SUVs went blazing down the street.

Within two minutes of being pulled over, Mr. Martinez-Samano was handcuffed, patted down and stowed in a back seat. The quick turnaround, ICE officials said, minimized the chances that rubbernecks would post a video on Facebook, where, inevitably, it would be described as a checkpoint or a random traffic stop.

At the agency’s Atlanta building, where detainees in orange jumpsuits filled the holding cells ringing the fluorescent intake room, Mr. Martinez-Samano sat stoically in handcuffs.

The agents were doing their jobs, he said in a brief interview. But, he said, he did not think he was worth ICE’s time. Having already gone to prison, he said, “I already paid.”

Yee doesn’t say whether Martinez-Samano has been or will be deported, but as I read the story that seems the likely outcome. It should be. He may have served his time for domestic violence and the rape charge that was pleaded down, but it makes no sense to permit people with his kind of criminal history to remain in the U.S. illegally. It seems perverse to do so.

ICE officials say that agents do not randomly arrest people, instead targeting criminals such as Martinez-Samano. Yee does not dispute this, but she notes that a large number of ICE arrests involve motor vehicle violations, as opposed to violent crimes. Her other main anecdote centers around one of these arrests:

Gabriela Martinez, 28, a single mother of three who illegally crossed the border from Mexico in 2005, was moving the last of her family’s belongings to the new house she had just rented in Norcross when her Ford Expedition was pulled over for a broken brake light in April.

She knew the risks. The father of her 5-, 7- and 10-year-old daughters, was deported after being pulled over in 2012 [note: during the Obama years]. Ever since, she had taught the girls to be extra diligent about wearing seatbelts. Once Mr. Trump took office, she rode with friends and took Ubers as often as possible.

But she said she had no choice but to drive to her daughters’ school, to the doctor or to the houses she cleans. As rapidly as the Atlanta area has grown, public transit is practically absent outside Atlanta itself.

“Every time I pull out of here, I think, ‘Please, God, please, God, don’t let me get stopped,’” she said.

She was held for four days at the Gwinnett County jail — where a sign outside announces “This is a 287(g) facility” — before being transferred to an immigration detention center. The friend who had been watching her children when she was arrested told them their mother was traveling for work, but Ms. Martinez called to tell her 10-year-old daughter, Evelyn, the truth. . . .

Evelyn began to wail, sobbing so hard that she dropped the phone. Ms. Martinez could only listen.

This woman hasn’t been deported. She was released with an ankle monitor after telling ICE agents about her American-born children. However, says Yee, “she still faces possible deportation.”

There are sound reasons to deport illegal immigrants caught driving without a license. Common sense suggests that people who drive without a license are more dangerous on the road than people with licenses. In addition, driving without a license shows a flagrant lack of respect for American law, a lack of respect we shouldn’t be surprised to find in people who have already disregarded our immigration laws.

Weighed against these arguments in Carmela Martinez’s case is a sob story — literally. That story carried weight. She was released after officials heard it.

Reasonable people may differ about the merit of this outcome. However, it’s clear to me that, at a minimum, the prospect of deportation should hover over illegal immigrants who contemplate driving without a license.

In the Trump administration, it does — at least in Atlanta.