Judges will be reassigned to 12 sanctuary cities in a bid to speed up the deportation of undocumented persons with outstanding criminal charges across the country, according to officials at the U.S. Department of Justice.
A number of so-called sanctuary cities, home to large communities of undocumented migrants, are expected to be targeted in the temporary change, but it remains unclear how many judges will be reassigned.
A spokeswoman from the Justice Department confirmed that New York, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, Baltimore, Bloomington, Minnesota, Omaha and Phoenix had been included on the hit list. In Texas, El Paso and Harlingen were also targeted along with Imperial in southern California.
The move is a part of President Donald Trump’s plan to heavily crack down on undocumented persons, particularly those with criminal records. While Trump has continually demonized undocumented migrants as dangerous scourge, mounting evidence shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born citizens. Still, many have already been targeted in raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, many who only have minor convictions dating back years.
Under former President Barack Obama, immigration deportation was prioritized for people convicted of serious crimes. Under Trump, however, those with pending criminal cases are seen as priorities for deportation, regardless of whether that have been deemed innocent or guilty.
Advocacy groups for refugees say that the judge reshuffling is not only further demonizing immigrants but unjustly targeting those who may be deported without facing trial. Others have noted that the logistical reshuffle could actually slow down the backlog of around half a million pending cases in the immigration court system.
There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who risk deportation under Trump’s anti-immigration plan. The president has signed an executive order to increase the number of border patrol agents and bolster the powers of ICE. He continues to vow to build a “great border wall” between the U.S. and Mexico.