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HOLA Protests Immigration Arrests In Northeast Ohio

The local immigration advocacy group HOLA gathered in downtown Cleveland Monday to protests arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Our community is at the breaking point,” HOLA director Veronica Dahlberg said, surrounded by HOLA members and supporters near Cleveland City Hall.

Immigrant communities across the country have been on alert since President Trump’s announcement earlier this month that his administration planned raids in several cities around the country, none in Ohio. Large-scale raids did not materialize. The fear, however, remains palpable.

Immigration attorneys told ideastream Monday that ICE has been making made arrests in Northeast Ohio in recent weeks, but not on the scale of major raids like those that saw hundreds arrested at two aera employers in 2018.

Dahlberg called on elected officials to push for immigration reform and to conduct more oversight of ICE and Border Patrol in Ohio. She accused the government of surveilling families, making arrests that separate U.S. citizen children from parents.

“We’re going to work so hard to empower our community, so that they can use their voices to stand up and speak out against these terrible injustices that are happening here on the northern border,” she said.

The Trump administration expanded the number of undocumented immigrants considered a priority for deportation in 2017. The number of immigration arrests has since increased in Ohio and Michigan, after years of decline in the later part of the Obama administration.

Ohio’s immigration court is projected to hear 4,880 new deportation cases this fiscal year, surpassing a previous high in 2009, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The court’s backlog continues to grow, according to TRAC data. The U.S. Justice Department has added several judges to the Ohio court over the last year.

ICE arrested 1,725 people alleged to be in the country unlawfully in the first half of this fiscal year, which runs from last October to the end of this September, according to statistics released by the agency.

The government made about 3,600 immigration arrests in Ohio and Michigan in the 2018 fiscal year — an increase over the prior year, but still below figures in 2013 and 2014.

“Approximately 75 percent of those individuals either had a prior criminal conviction or came into ICE custody pursuant to their criminal arrest on pending charges,” Khaalid Walls, an ICE spokesman, told ideastream via email. “These stats make clear that the agency only conducts targeted enforcement focused first on criminals and public safety threats. Claims of any type of random or indiscriminate enforcement are false.”

Those prior or pending criminal charges can include DUIs, traffic offenses and past immigration charges, as well as drug offenses and assault, according to national figures released by ICE last year.

Immigration attorneys told ideastream last year that they’d seen arrests of people with longer-running community ties, as well as people picked up for older criminal convictions.

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