The Department of Homeland Security released on Tuesday documents translating President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and border security into policy, providing details on how it will prosecute undocumented immigrants and criminal immigrants, repealing nearly all of the Obama administration’s guidances, and bringing a major shift in the way the agency enforces the nation’s immigration laws.
As the WSJ notes, “almost everybody living in the U.S. illegally is now subject to deportation, and more undocumented arrivals at the southern border would be jailed or sent back to Mexico to await a hearing rather than released into the U.S.” according to the new guidance.
“The Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” the enforcement memo says. “Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws.”
Secretary John Kelly’s two memos expand raids and the definition of criminal aliens, while diminishing sanctuary areas and enlisting local law enforcement to execute federal immigration policy.
The memos still outline priority groups, starting with serious criminals. But the priorities are much broader and include people charged with crimes who haven’t been convicted, people guilty only of immigration-related crimes such as using false documents, and anybody who an immigration officer believes is a risk to public safety.
While DHS officials said they wouldn’t target otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants and don’t plan roundups of illegal immigrants, and said their limited resources would still require a focus on those people who pose a public-safety risk, they also said that people who don’t fall into a priority group aren’t exempt from deportation, and the DHS memo says exceptions would be made on a case-by-case basis.
Previously, under Obama guidelines, undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes were the priority for removal. Now, immigration agents, customs officers and border patrol agents have been directed to remove anyone convicted of any criminal offense. That includes people convicted of fraud in any official matter before a governmental agency and people who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.” The only Obama-era guidances left in place were those relating to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
According to the NYT, the policy also calls for an expansion of expedited removals, allowing Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to deport more people immediately. Under the Obama administration, expedited removal was used only within 100 miles of the border for people who had been in the country no more than 14 days. Now it will include those who have been in the country for up to two years, and located anywhere in the nation. The change in enforcement priorities will require a considerable increase in resources. With an estimated 11 million people in the country illegally, the government has long had to set narrower priorities, given the constraints on staffing and money.
Some more details from the NYT:
In the so-called guidance documents released on Tuesday, the department is directed to begin the process of hiring 10,000 new immigration and customs agents, expanding the number of detention facilities and creating an office within Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help families of those killed by undocumented immigrants. Mr. Trump had some of those relatives address his rallies in the campaign, and several were present when he signed an executive order on immigration last month at the Department of Homeland Security.
The directives would also instruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, to begin reviving a program that recruits local police officers and sheriff’s deputies to help with deportation, effectively making them de facto immigration agents. The effort, called the 287(g) program, was scaled back during the Obama administration.
The memos were decried by immigration advocates, and face resistance from many states and dozens of so-called sanctuary cities, which have refused to allow their law enforcement workers to help round up undocumented individuals.
“These memos lay out a detailed blueprint for the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants in America,” Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said Tuesday in a statement. “They fulfill the wish lists of the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements and bring to life the worst of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.”
Senior Homeland Security officials told reporters Tuesday morning that the directives were intended to more fully make use of the enforcement tools that Congress has already given to the department to crack down on illegal immigration. The officials emphasized that some of the proposals for increased enforcement would roll out slowly as the department finalizes the logistics and legal rules for more aggressive action.
According to Bloomberg, the memos could further inflame tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, which has advised its citizens living in the U.S. to take precautions in the face of Trump’s new immigration policy. DHS is considering employing a rarely used law to return people who traveled to the U.S. illegally through Mexico back into Mexico, even if they are not Mexican nationals. Officials said that returning Central American refugees to Mexico to await hearings would be done only in a limited fashion, and only after discussions with the government of Mexico, which however would most likely have to agree to accept the refugees.
While nothing in the directives would change the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides work permits and deportation protection for the young people commonly referred to as Dreamers, officials made clear that the department intended to aggressively follow Mr. Trump’s promise that immigration laws be enforced to the maximum extent possible, marking a significant departure from the procedures in place under President Barack Obama.
That promise has generated fear and anger in the immigrant community, and advocates for immigrants have warned that the new approach is a threat to many undocumented immigrants who had previously been in little danger of being deported.
Meanwhile Trump, who said during his campaign that he would cancel the program, has since changed his stance, calling those covered by DACA “incredible kids.” “The DACA situation is a very, very — it’s a very difficult thing for me because you know, I love these kids,” Trump said at a Feb. 16 press conference. “I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and you know, the law is rough.”
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