Some call it a witch-hunt. Others say it’s a much-needed reality check.
President Trump, who during his campaign frequently spoke of illegal immigrants who had murdered Americans, has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to publish a public weekly list of criminal actions committed by people in the U.S. illegally.
Trump also instructed the agency to make public each week the localities that are not working with immigration officials by turning illegal immigrants in their custody over for deportation proceedings.
The order said it was intended “To better inform the public regarding the public safety threats associated with sanctuary jurisdictions.”
Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has been one of Congress’ most vocal and persistent proponents of strict immigration policies, lauded the new orders.
“We’ll be able to build an updated spreadsheet of their [DHS’] activities, arrests and deportations,” said King, who long has pushed for more public data on crimes committed by immigrants. “I’m delighted. This is sunshine on the government.”
King says he hopes to see “a full picture on how many illegal aliens are encountered by law enforcement” and he would like to see it include misdemeanors as well as more serious crimes.
Advocates seeking more lenient immigration policies likened the order to a witch hunt. They said that Trump is demonizing all illegal immigrants by portraying them as criminals.
“Trump wants to lift up stories of crimes because he wants the American people to think that most undocumented immigrants are criminals,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a Washington D.C.-based organization that favors less restrictive immigration laws. “Every expert knows the opposite is true, but he wants to spread the ‘Big Lie’ to justify what he intends to do -- which is to try to force millions of immigrants out of the country.”
Those who favor strict immigration enforcement are lauding the order, saying that cracks in the system that have allowed immigrants to commit crimes, including murder, after they have been deported and returned must be underscored and fixed.
“These provisions of the executive order enhance transparency and public safety and are long-overdue,” said Bob Dane, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which is based in Washington. “Under the Obama Administration, data regarding illegal alien crime was either non-existent, withheld or conflated.
“Collecting and publishing accurate information on illegal alien crime is a necessary and rightful obligation of government,” Dane said. “It allows us to get the full picture so that we can make meaningful policy in the public interest based on empirical evidence, not political spin.”
What is unclear is whether names will be published along with the crimes committed, and whether the list will include only serious felonies or low-level crimes as well.
White House Director of Media Affairs Helen Aguirre Ferré referred those questions to the Department of Homeland Security.
Gillian M. Christensen, the acting press secretary for DHS, said in an email to FoxNews.com in response to such questions: "We’re not getting into a lot of the specifics right now.”
Trump made cracking down on illegal immigrants and beefing up border security a major part of his presidential campaign. He has proposed deporting 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. and building a massive wall along the country’s southern border with Mexico.
On the opening day of the Republican National Convention last summer, delegates who were gathered to cast their vote for the presidential nominee heard from family members of people killed by illegal immigrants.
“My son’s life was taken by an illegal alien,” said one of the speakers, Mary Mendoza, whose son Brandon, a police officer in Arizona, was killed by an illegal immigrant who was driving while intoxicated. “It’s time we have an administration that cares more about Americans than illegals.”
She added: “A vote for Hillary [Clinton] puts all of our lives at risk. It’s time for Donald Trump.”
Trump has held up crimes by illegal immigrants as an example of the dangers of a large population that lives in the shadows, and whose criminal histories are unknown. One of the most high-profile crimes by an undocumented immigrant in recent years was the murder in 2015 in San Francisco of Kathryn Steinle. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who was charged with her murder, illegally re-entered the United States several times after being deported.
Immigration attorney Marty Rosenbluth, who practices in North Carolina, said the Trump administration is casting a wide net when it speaks about criminals.
“The categories for criminal are so broad,” Rosenbluth told Fox News. Rosenbluth added that information about immigrants who have committed crimes already is compiled.
“That data-sharing never ended,” he said. The goal seems to be, he said, “to shame localities” and cast a pall over immigrants.