It feels like the norm for it to go viral when ICE arrests an undocumented immigrant these days, particularly when the detainee is a student, has lived in the United States for decades or leaves children behind. Such arrests generate countless headlines about how much those individuals contributed to their community and kickstart fundraisers aimed at supporting them and their families. Perhaps the reason our nation is so quick to rally behind these immigrants is that President Trump vowed to focus on keeping violent criminals out of the country and "show great heart" to those brought into the U.S. as children — and the stories of some more prominent ICE detainees are at odds with those promises.
Trump's administration hit the ground running with an executive order addressing border security and immigration enforcement just five days after moving into the White House. While the policy left room for interpretation about exactly which immigrants would be targeted, it stated that the administration's main objective was to protect Americans from those undocumented immigrants who "present a significant threat to national security and public safety." In the same vein, Trump's tweets showed that he wants to deport gang members and drug dealers in order to "make America safe & great again."
He also promised to "deal with DACA with heart" months before eliminating the program, which allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to work legally and protected them from deportation. Despite all these statements, the largest spike in ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants has been among those with no criminal record. According to The Washington Post, ICE deported 28,000 immigrants facing no criminal charges from Jan. 22-Sept. 2 last year; that's three times as many non-criminal immigrants as were deported in the same period in 2016. It's an increase highlighted by the viral stories of several immigrants either detained or deported by ICE over the past year.
Brought to the U.S. from Poland at the age of 5, Niec became a legal resident in 1989 and went on to become a doctor. The 43-year-old was arrested last week in Michigan after living in the country for almost 40 years because of two misdemeanors convictions dating back to 1992, when he was 17 years old. Niec was found guilty of malicious destruction of property under $100 and receiving and concealing stolen property over $100 at the time, The Washington Post reports. Niec's sister told The Post that second conviction was expunged from her brother's criminal record, but it could still lead to his deportation today.
Garcia, 39, was deported earlier this month after living in the U.S. for 30 years. Although Garcia came to the country as a child, he was too old to qualify for the DACA program introduced in 2012. Photos of Garcia — a landscaper with no criminal record — hugging his wife and children before boarding a plane to Mexico grabbed the nation's attention, and his family members have gone on to give heartbreaking interviews about his situation in the days since.
Lizandro & Diego Claros Saravia
Two brothers living in Maryland were deported to El Salvador on Aug. 2, despite neither having a criminal record. Lizandro, 19, and Diego, 22, were detained after a general check-in with ICE agents, during which Lizandro told them he had received a soccer scholarship to attend college in North Carolina. The brothers had lived in the U.S. without documents since 2009, and had received relief from deportation once before in 2013.
Diego Ismael Puma Macancela
Puma Macancela was detained by ICE in Westchester, New York the day of his senior prom. The 19-year-old and his mom fled gang violence in Ecuador by coming to the states in 2014; his mom had been detained the previous day, and ICE told WNBC that the arrest was due to an immigration judge's order from November 2016. Puma Macancela was just weeks away from graduating high school when he was arrested.
Married to a minister who was granted asylum in America, Contreras regularly reported to ICE officials in Charlotte because of her undocumented status. But when the mother of three went to her September check-in, she was immediately detained and sent to Georgia to await deportation back to Honduras, despite holding a work permit. While Contreras was previously deported in 2009, she was granted a renewable order of supervision by ICE when she came back a few months later.
Fuentes-Morales was detained after being pulled over while driving in February in New Hampshire. When the police discovered she didn't have a driver's license, she was arrested and deported to Honduras a few months later, according to The New Yorker. Her 13-year-old daughter is still in New Hampshire with her father, who was detained by ICE for nearly five months a few years ago. Fuentes-Morales hadn't been to Honduras in nearly two decades and has no close family there because they all live in the United States, according to the report.
Maribel Trujillo Diaz
After living in the states, where her four children were born, for 15 years, Trujillo was arrested by ICE agents in April during a regular check-in. She was deported despite her possession of a one-year work permit that hadn't expired yet, and did not have a criminal record. Last week, a federal appeals court in Ohio ordered U.S. immigration officials to reconsider Trujillo's case.
Daniel Ramirez Medina
Ramirez, now 24, was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 7 years old. He was arrested by agents who were looking for someone else during an immigration raid in February 2017, and then was detained by ICE for six weeks despite the fact that he was a DACA recipient. He was ultimately released from custody after paying $15,000 bail.
These immigrants' stories run up against Trump's past statements on who he was looking to remove from the U.S. in his quest to secure the border with Mexico and restrict other newcomers from coming into the country. Mothers, fathers, and students with no criminal record or decades-old misdemeanors aren't quite the "bad hombres" Trump said he wanted to kick out of the country.