By Arizona Daily Star
After months of tough campaign rhetoric, the Trump administration touted a steep decline in border-crossing arrests as evidence of a “new era.”
In Arizona, the arrest of an unauthorized immigrant at a Pima County court and a raid on a humanitarian aid camp near Arivaca offered further signs of an immigration crackdown.
But what exactly has changed along Arizona’s border with Mexico?
Federal immigration agents have arrested people at courthouses before.
The Arivaca camp raid wasn’t the first of its kind; Border Patrol agents also raided it in 2014.
And while arrests of border crossers did plummet after Trump took office in January, they had been declining for years. In 2016, there were 65,000 apprehensions in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, down from more than half a million in 2000.
The truth is, Trump officials are not so much taking border enforcement in a radical new direction as they are tweaking the formidable border security machine built during the Bush and Obama administrations.
So Southern Arizonans without legal status find themselves in a familiar position: trying to figure out the new rules. While campaign bluster about mass deportations has subsided, the federal government is threatening to deport non-criminals living in this country illegally and is prosecuting first-time crossers, something that had largely stopped under Obama.
Scaling up those efforts would be monumentally difficult. The U.S. doesn’t have enough judges, immigration officers or detention space for mass deportations.
The Arizona Daily Star spoke with about three dozen faith leaders, school administrators, organizers, law enforcement officials, lawyers, service providers and immigrants, and gathered data from law enforcement agencies and courts to see what has changed — and what hasn’t — under the new administration.
The Star found that while people are scared, they are not hiding. Instead, they are taking steps to prepare themselves and their families in case they are stopped by a local police officer or get a knock on their door from immigration authorities.