- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - A southwestern Michigan jail has seen an increase in the number of immigrants facing deportation, particularly mothers without criminal histories.

The number of people housed in the Calhoun County jail from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has more than doubled from 98 immigrants in 2015 to 220 this year, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

Albanian immigrant Cile Precetaj, 46, is a mother of three U.S.-born children who’s been seeking asylum in the country since 2000. She’s among many mothers without criminal backgrounds being held in the Battle Creek jail and faces deportation as early as Wednesday.

Precetaj said there’s fear and panic in the jail.

“We never did any crime,” she said. “We just came here to this country to have better life and better education for our kids.”

Precetaj was arrested last month during a routine monthly visit to the ICE office in Detroit. She fainted from an anxiety attack in front of officers and was briefly hospitalized before being taken to the jail, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Precetaj’s case is currently in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“In the past, before the 2016 election, she would never have been taken into custody like this,” said Michael Lacey, Precetaj’s attorney. At that time, only immigrants with serious criminal records would be removed, he said.

ICE said that 92 percent of all immigrants they arrested last year had criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, were an immigration fugitive or had re-entered the country illegally after being removed.

But the agency noted that “ICE no longer exempts classes or categories of removable” immigrants from potential enforcement.

Mothers living in the country illegally with clean records were not immune from deportation in the past. But immigration authorities previously used discretion and considered factors, such as family relationships, according to immigration law attorneys.

“The Trump administration made it very clear in January 2017 that they were undoing the priority system that created a secondary process for looking at things like family relationships and lack of criminal record in pursuing deportation orders,” said Susan Reed, managing attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “Whether or not you have a criminal record or whether or not you’re someone’s mother doesn’t matter to the government anymore.”

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