President Donald Trump painted a disturbing picture of undocumented immigrants during a campaign rally, asserting that his administration was deporting gang-affiliated members who tortured and murdered teenage girls.
Trump held a campaign rally July 25 for his 2020 re-election bid in Youngstown, Ohio. The president described America as a nation under siege by undocumented immigrants, calling those affiliated with MS-13 "animals."
"(Gang members) don't want to use guns because it's too fast and it's not painful enough, so they'll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die, and these are the animals that we've been protecting for so long," Trump told the crowd, according to CNN.
"Well, they're not being protected any longer, folks," the president concluded. "And that is why my administration is launching a nationwide crackdown on sanctuary cities."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced July 24 that the Trump administration would withhold federal grants from jurisdictions that did not fully comply with immigration agents.
"Sanctuary" policies do not compel local law enforcement to turn over undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Cities that practice these policies have asserted that local police should not be utilized as immigration agents and that allowing law enforcement to interact with undocumented immigrants without immediate threat of deportation helps them keep communities safer, according to The New York Times.
Trump decidedly does not share this view. During his campaign rally, the president asserted that sanctuary policies protected gang members affiliated with MS-13.
"We are throwing MS-13 the hell out of here so fast," Trump continued, according to Newsweek. "We are cracking down hard on the foreign criminal gangs that have brought illegal drugs, violence, horrible bloodshed to peaceful neighborhoods all across our country... We're liberating our towns, and we're liberating our cities."
Trump did not cite a documented instance in which an undocumented immigrant slowly murdered a teenage girl with a knife.
On July 21, it was disclosed that ICE planned to mount raids throughout the country between July 23 and July 26. The raids were set to target teenage undocumented immigrants suspected of gang affiliations. The ICE asserted that their criteria for gang affiliation was having a gang-related tattoo, wearing clothing associated with gangs or a close proximity to areas dominated by gangs, Reuters reports.
Under the previous administration of former President Barack Obama, ICE prioritized the arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants who had committed a felony or repeat misdemeanors. Since Trump assumed office, the agency now prioritizes virtually all undocumented immigrants for arrest and removal.
On Feb. 21, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations director Matthew Albence issued a memo to all of agents ordering them to detain any undocumented immigrants they encountered, ProPublica reports.
"Effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties," Albence wrote.
Between Jan. 22 and April 29, ICE arrested roughly 41,300 undocumented immigrants. 10,800 of those arrested had not committed a crime other than citizenship status, marking a 150 percent increase in non-criminal arrests, compared to the same timeline in 2016, according to The Atlantic.