While many of Donald Trump's campaign promises have been stymied by Congress or the courts, the Trump administration has been quietly following through on one of them — cracking down on undocumented immigration. There has been a significant rise in ICE detainments of people who entered the United States illegally and deportations of many who have committed no other crimes and may have been permitted to stay under Obama. On Wednesday, one of those cases happened suddenly and with public outcry: Two undocumented brothers were immediately deported after informing ICE officials that one of them was accepted to college.
Under the later years of the Obama administration, undocumented immigrants who had not committed a crime and had shown themselves to be relatively productive members of society were allowed to stay, though they were usually required to check in periodically with ICE. This included Lizandro and Diego Claros-Saravia, 19 and 22, respectively, a pair of brothers originally from El Salvador, living in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
On Friday, the brothers checked in with ICE, as they are supposed to routinely do. Lizandro recently graduated from high school and had received a partial scholarship to Louisberg College in North Carolina in order to play soccer (he'd been a star on the Bethesda Soccer Club in high school). He requested permission to continue his check-ins with ICE in North Carolina when he moved.
When ICE was informed of Lizandro's plans, it promptly detained both of the brothers. According to Nick Katz, a lawyer representing the pair for CASA de Maryland, “The ICE agents told me they were deporting the kids because Lizandro got into college, and that showed they intended to stay in the U.S.”
On Wednesday, just five days after they were detained and despite efforts by the community and family to rally around the brothers, Diego and Lizandro Claros-Saravia were deported back to El Salvador. Neither have lived there for years, and their family is worried about their safety now that they have been sent to a country with a high murder rate, separated from their parents.
"They have separated my family,” said Lucia Saravia, the brothers' mother at a news conference on Wednesday. “We were together, and we were very happy.”
The brothers had not been accused of a crime beyond illegally crossing the border. They received a deportation order in 2012 which was stayed in 2013, but they were denied additional stays afterward. The pair apparently believed, due to the more lenient policies under the Obama administration, that merely checking in with Immigration would not cause them to be deported.
Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen advocated for the release of the brothers before their deportation, and excoriated the Trump administration for deporting the two despite all signs of them being well-adjusted productive members of society.
It's a sign of how difficult Trump's policies on immigration really are. The president has frequently accused illegal immigrants of being violent criminals and said that the ramping up of deportations is aimed at keeping America safe. But crime statistics show that undocumented immigrants are actually less likely to perpetrate violent crimes than American citizens. If Trump continues with his goal of deporting anyone here illegally even if they haven't committed a crime, there will be many more cases like the Claros-Saravia brothers.