About a month ago I was contacted by a reporter at the Post & Courier, the largest newspaper in Charleston, SC. The reporter was looking into rumors that ICE was ramping up enforcement of immigration laws, detaining individuals that are in the United States illegally (more about how one is in the U.S. illegally in another post).
I spent about 45 minutes on the phone with the reporter and eventually the story was published here. My quote in the article was very short, maybe because the substance of my conversation was that I didn't believe that enforcement was abnormally increasing.
During our conversation I told the reporter that ICE enforcement has generally been a roller coaster, meaning sometimes enforcement is high, while sometimes you don't hear much about detentions. It was only now that the media was picking up on it, in light of President Trump's administration's promise to deal with immigration. My thought is that, like any other federal agency, things tend to happen quickly when budgets are allocated, but as the money starts to diminish, so do the capabilities of the agency. Whether or not that is true is up for debate. Regardless, I thought that ICE was just doing what they usually do - pick up the "high priority" offenders, those who commit violent criminal acts, traffic drugs or people, etc., and they happened to currently be doing more enforcement because they were allocated their budget.
Now, about a month later, I am seeing that ICE has seemed to step up enforcement in South Carolina. It appears they are targeting individuals who are not as high priority as those mentioned above. For example, I recently had a call from the family of an individual who failed to appear for a traffic ticket in court, and had an outstanding warrant. ICE picked the individual up, detained him, and he is now on his way to court in Atlanta, hoping that there might be some way I can prevent him from being deported.
I don't know how far down the priority list ICE is going in South Carolina. I am basing my conclusion on the only data I have - phone calls to my office from relatives of people who are detained and need help.
Whether you are in South Carolina or not, my suggestion to any person who may have some reason to fear a visit from ICE - visa overstay, outstanding warrant, criminal arrest, entering the country illegally, etc.:
Contact an immigration attorney for advice on your situation!
There might be some way to help you. For the price of an in-depth consultation, where your whole situation is reviewed, you might get some good advice, or your problem can be resolved so you no longer have to fear a visit from ICE. It may end up being worth it, because you'll spend a lot more money hiring an attorney to represent you if you're placed in a removal proceeding.