These Are the Lives Disrupted by the Deportation Machine

By Carlos Guevara, Senior Policy Advisor and Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

For many people, the consequences and aftershocks of unrestrained immigration enforcement and deportations are difficult to understand. Without directly experiencing it, many may want to think that the focus is on “bad hombres,” and prioritizing community safety and security. But that is not the case. And the reality of what is unfolding has consequences for everyone, not only the American families whose loved ones are getting directly caught in the administration’s deportation machine.

In recent months, this administration has gone after undocumented immigrants with clean records and deep roots in their communities and now they are even going after immigrants who have some form of legal status. The administration announced the termination of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, which provided temporary status to young people brought to the United States as children who met certain conditions, and of some TPS (Temporary Protected Status) programs that provided relief to people from specific countries who could not return home due to a natural disaster or a civil war.

This is unprecedented. The Trump administration is actually growing the size of the undocumented population — perhaps by as many as 1.1 million — then requesting additional funding for its own manmade disaster. Those it seeks to force into the shadows or its indiscriminate deportation pipeline are people who have done what the American people want of them. They have completed and filed required documents, paid fees, and passed background checks. And, they have lived most of their lives in the United States.

Instead of taking steps to modernize our immigration system, making it more effective and in tune with our country’s fundamental values, the president and his administration seem intent on inflicting pain and spreading fear, even if its actions undermine the safety and security of many communities.

Going after immigrants with deep roots and who have made meaningful contributions to their communities while maintaining clean records is like adding fuel to the fire. As members of Congress consider spending legislation in the weeks ahead, they should avoid being complicit by giving this president the financial tools needed to carry out a mass deportation agenda that not only hurts our social fabric and economy, but also puts our safety at risk.


President Trump has insisted that he is going after the “bad hombres,” but what has become evident is that immigration agents are arresting fewer convicted criminals — as a percentage — than in the past. According to government data, from January 22 to April 29, 2017 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 41,318 individuals. This not only reflects an increase in overall arrests to the tune of 37.6% over the same period in 2016, but nearly 11,000 of those arrested — 26% — had no criminal convictions. This represents more than double the number of those arrested without criminal convictions during the same period last year.

Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and his administration’s drive for increased deportations is making communities less safe. People are reluctant to report crimes when they fear speaking out to law enforcement officials may make them targets for the deportation machine. In addition to affecting millions of American families who have a loved one who is undocumented or has legal status this administration is now trying to take away, these ill-advised actions have other serious consequences.

For example, in Los Angeles, 25% fewer Latinos have come forward with reports of sexual assault and domestic violence, with no reporting change among any other community. Moreover, the Trump administration’s efforts to bully local police into indiscriminate immigration enforcement, by aggressively stoking the so-called “sanctuary cities” fervor, only complicates local law enforcement’s efforts to build the trust that is so vital to promoting public safety. The administration knows the debate is about ICE wanting to sidestep the law by executing arrests without producing legally required warrants.

In fact, a recent report by the Center for American Progress finds that communities with policies limiting their entanglement with federal immigration authorities tend to be safer than those without. The report finds that there are, on average, 35.5% fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in so-called “sanctuary counties” compared to non-sanctuary counties. Additionally, key economic indicators like unemployment rates and median household incomes also tend to be more positive in “sanctuary cities.”

As the report’s author notes, the key statistical findings “suggest that when local law enforcement focuses on keeping communities safe, rather than becoming entangled in federal immigration enforcement efforts, communities are safer and community members stay more engaged in the local economy.”

Ironically, and dangerously, if the Department of Justice makes good on its threat to cut funding to these localities, it would be programs that support local law enforcement like Community Oriented Policing Services and Office of Justice Programs, that stand to lose billions in federal grant dollars.

The U.S. Supreme Court has placed important limits on the federal government’s ability to impose coercive conditions on federal funding to state and local jurisdictions, including prohibiting the federal government from imposing conditions on funding that are unrelated to the purpose of that funding.

Put differently, “pay for play” is unlikely. The federal government cannot pressure and coerce local compliance on immigration enforcement by withholding or conditioning federal dollars designated to fund vital, and politically sensitive, areas like education, health care, or infrastructure.


Forcing state police officers to cooperate with federal immigration officers can bring ugly, severe consequences that place everyone’s safety at risk.

For example, in Indiana, Helen Beristain voted for Trump believing that he’d only deport violent criminals and gang members. However, her husband Roberto Beristain — father of three American children under the age of 15 and owner of Eddie’s Steak Shed, a successful restaurant in Granger, Indiana, was detained and deported.

This action does nothing but make it harder for an American family to provide for their children, and erodes the livelihoods of the hardworking people who worked for Beristain’s restaurant.

Helen Beristain was quoted in The Washington Post as saying, “I wish I didn’t vote at all.”

In another case, federal ICE agents arrested Carlos Bolanos at his workplace without a warrant. Bolanos asked why he was being arrested, prompting one agent to respond, “Because I have reason to believe you’re not here legally.”

This action actively erodes the rule of law by undermining local authority and relying on illegal practices such as racial profiling instead of actual evidence. It’s not surprising, then, as noted above that in cities like Los Angeles and Houston law enforcement officials have reported that immigrant communities are reporting less crime than in years past.

Another troubling case of someone caught in Trump’s deportation machine is that of Silvia Ocampo Ortiz, a single mother living in San Diego who was suddenly detained during a check-in with ICE officials — even though they had allowed her to stay in the United States for years.

Since Ocampo Ortiz’s husband was deported, she has had to raise three children on her own, including a young daughter with special needs. Ocampo Ortiz was previously arrested for using a fake driver’s license which she used to get to work and take her kids to school. Even though she had been in the United States for 24 years, this eight-year-old minor offense is now being used to justify taking her, the only guardian of young children, away.

Facing similar circumstances is Maria Santiago, a native of Guatemala who has lived in the United States for 14 years and despite regular check-ins with ICE agents, is facing deportation under this administration’s dragnet enforcement policies. She could be separated from her four children — ages three to 11 — and be forced to return to a country where she suffered abuse as a child.


In recent months, reports have surfaced of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents being caught up in ICE’s aggressive enforcement activities, raising fresh concerns about racial profiling, particularly against America’s Latino population — of whom nearly eight out of 10 are U.S. citizens. In an ICE-led operation earlier this year, ICE arrested 933 U.S. citizens suspected of being involved with gangs. While many would agree that ICE’s limited enforcement resources should be focused on noncitizens who pose serious public safety threats, it’s unclear under what authority ICE, the agency in charge of enforcing civil immigration laws, can target Americans for criminal prosecution.

Being arrested by ICE if you’re an American citizen can be a terrifying experience. Guadalupe Plascencia experienced that first hand when she was arrested in San Bernardino County for allegedly failing to appear as a witness in a court case.

Plascencia has been an American citizen for 20 years, but was still handcuffed, placed in ICE custody and was asked to sign paperwork acknowledging that ICE questioned her. Because immigration is a civil, not criminal, matter, it is difficult for people detained to receive legal representation that can then verify their status unless they can already afford a lawyer.

The ramped up interior enforcement promised by President Trump would also significantly increase the number of American children separated from their parents. More than 5.1 million U.S.-citizen children live with an undocumented parent, and reports show that children separated from parents are at greater risk of experiencing economic hardship, lower school performance, mental health issues, and housing and caregiving instability.

Between 2003 and 2013, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that somewhere between 740,000 and 925,000 of those deported were parents of American children. In fiscal year 2016, the year when ICE removals were most aligned with its civil enforcement priorities, ICE sought 24,134 removal orders, obtained 10,597 removal orders, and removed 30,121 individuals who indicated that they had at least one American child.

This means that of the 65,332 removals, nearly half left behind at least one American child.


If you haven’t had contact with immigration officials or know any American families being impacted by these policies, it may be difficult to comprehend what they experience. And most Americans don’t realize that there are far too many cases like those described above.

If you were vulnerable to ICE, you might for example:

  • Experience a family tragedy and have your life upended because you were unable to file paperwork on time. That’s what happened to Carlos Olmeda, a professional boxer from Raleigh, North Carolina, and a former DACA recipient.
  • Leave work and be pulled over by a police officer even though you didn’t commit a traffic violation. If you don’t have a license with you, like Julio Estrada Escobar — you could land in deportation proceedings almost immediately.
  • Be a member of a persecuted group, like the 47 Indonesian Christians facing deportation in Boston, even though you could face death if you were sent back home.
  • Have lived in the United States for nearly 30 years and be detained on your way to work because of a mistake made by federal ICE agents. Even though you might be released — just as Guillermo Peralta Martinez was, you could still end up having to fight to stay in your home.
  • Have lived in the United States for 15 years, and possibly served as a confidential informant, like Renato Filippi, only to have the government break its promises to you.

Or you might only be 10 years old, with no memory at all of your home country. You might need medical attention and have to go through government checkpoints in order to receive the treatment you need — only to be detained and treated like a criminal — just like Rosamaria, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, whose family simply tried to bring her to the hospital for gall bladder surgery.


Make no mistake, even if you don’t consider yourself to be directly connected to immigration issues, each person who gets caught in the deportation machine is a member of a family, a member of a community. And each rule that the government bends or piece of anti-immigrant legislation it advances, that prioritizes pain and fearmongering to justify keeping the machine running, is one that will harm all of us. And your wallet will be raided to do it.

As the year comes to a close, we must urge our members of Congress to avoid being complicit in keeping this ruthless deportation machine running.

All stories mentioned in this piece are from Visit the URL to learn more, and to share your story about the consequences of these dangerous and harmful policies.

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The largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, UnidosUS works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.