President Trump’s promise to ramp up the deportation of undocumented immigrants hit a new stride on Monday when Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly issued memos for how to carry out Trump’s two sweeping executive orders giving the federal government almost unrestrained ability to arrest, detain and deport immigrants. The memos include directives to expand the group of undocumented immigrants prioritized for deportation, expedite removals, and recruit or deputize thousands of additional law enforcement agents to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants.
The plans are a far cry from former-President Obama’s executive orders regarding immigration. The executive order, directed toward Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), indicates that all undocumented immigrants that have been charged with a crime, or “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” even if not convicted, must be prioritized for deportation. As being in the United States without documentation is in itself considered a crime, this order makes all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a “priority” for deportation. President Trump has already directed the DHS to compile and release a weekly list of crimes “committed by aliens and any jurisdiction that ignored or otherwise failed to honor any detainers with respect to such aliens.”
In order to carry out the mass deportation of this expanded prioritized group, the President is resurrecting a failed Obama-era program that automatically checked the immigration status of anyone checked into local jails. In addition, the order allows for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations office to triple in size. ICE will also be able to deputize countless local law enforcement agents to act with the authority of federal officials in arresting and detaining undocumented immigrants as part of ICE’s immigration “task force.” A number of states and sanctuary cities have refused to allow their officers to take part in this initiative.
According to Vox, “Using local police to enforce immigration law makes it easy to depict everyone being deported as a criminal—otherwise, why would local police have come across them to begin with? But in practice, the 287(g) and Secure Communities program aren’t just baskets to catch immigrants, but vacuums that actively suck them up.”
The President’s signed executive order lays out a strategy of deporting undocumented immigrants prior to their trials as a method for managing the back pile of court cases that are likely to continue to grow exponentially. Anyone who has been in the country for less than two years can be deported immediately.
While this is an option given to ICE officials in Kelly’s memo, he also calls for all undocumented immigrants to be detained no matter what, even if they are in the US seeking asylum, a detention capacity that the government does not currently have. In addition, according to Vox, immigrants held in detention facilities have a much more difficult time receiving a fair trial.
Children would not be exempt from this harsh scrutiny and treatment under the new executive orders. The memo outlines methods for deporting children who are crossing the border alone, either fleeing violence or reuniting with family already in the States, suggesting DHS change the definition of who is considered an unaccompanied child and deport the relatives that the child has come to the US to join.
Joanne Linn, senior legislative counsel from American Civil Liberties Union, commented on the memos, saying, “Due process, human decency, and common sense are treated as inconvenient obstacles on the path to mass deportation. The Trump administration is intent on inflicting cruelty on millions of immigrant families across the country.”
Trump has put immigration at the forefront of his first 100 days as President, introducing an executive order earlier this month attempting to institute what has now become commonly known as the “Muslim ban,” in which he attempted to ban the entry of immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries into the Unites States. This ban has been placed on hold since the 9th Circuit of Appeals ruled against Trump’s highly controversial executive order. Trump plans to release a revised order that will not include the initial ban on Syrian refugees, but will still target the same seven countries that were included in the first order.
Resources: Vox 2/21/17; Washington Post 2/18; The Independent 2/21; Feminist Majority Foundation 2/1; ABC News 2/20; New York Times 2/21/17