The Trump administration outlined a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants Tuesday, proclaiming that it would seek to swiftly deport many more people without court hearings and target migrants charged with crimes or thought to be dangerous, not just convicts.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a pair of memos describing the plan that, with few exceptions, the U.S. "no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement." Immigration officers should seek to deport undocumented people who have engaged in fraud or "willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency" or have "abused" any government benefit, in addition to criminals, Kelly wrote.
Immigration authorities also could seek to deport people based on their own judgment that the immigrants represent a risk to public safety or national security, he said. He ordered the department to hire 15,000 more border patrol and immigration agents and to begin building a wall on the Mexican border to enact executive orders signed by the president on Jan. 25.
Kelly’s memos don’t cover Trump’s Jan. 27 ban on the entry of foreign travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations, which was halted by a federal appeals court.
Revised Travel Ban
A revised version of the travel ban will be issued "very soon," Trump said in remarks at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, which he toured Tuesday morning.
Kelly said in one memo that the plan "implements new policies designed to stem illegal immigration and facilitate the detection, apprehension, detention and removal of aliens who have no lawful basis to enter or remain in the United States."
Trump ran for president on promises to crack down on undocumented immigrants, some of whom he has described as competing with lawful U.S. residents for jobs and contributing to rising crime in some cities. He has said that he would focus deportation efforts on undocumented immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S., but immigration advocates say that the government has already targeted law-abiding people who are in the country without documentation, including some with children or other family members who are citizens.
The memos direct the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to begin hiring 10,000 agents and officers while the Customs and Border Protection agency hires 5,000 new agents.
Issue of Funding
A Department of Homeland Security official who briefed reporters on the plan on condition of anonymity said he wasn’t aware of how the new hires would be paid for but said the department is working on the problem of funding.
To enforce Trump’s pledge to end a policy known as “catch-and-release,” in which interdicted undocumented immigrants were released pending deportation proceedings, the memos call for a vast expansion of the use of detention centers to hold people caught by immigration authorities.
One of the memos directs ICE to expand a program that allows local law enforcement agencies partnering with the federal government “to perform the functions of an immigration officer,” including “investigation, apprehension and detention.”
The program was scaled back by the Obama administration in 2012 amid concerns about racial profiling and eroding trust between police and local communities.
Lowering the Bar
The U.S. deported more than 2.7 million people during former President Barack Obama’s eight-year term, according to ICE statistics. The majority of those deported were convicted criminals, as the Obama administration focused on removing violent offenders from the U.S.
By lowering the bar for criminal behavior, Trump’s immigration enforcement plan would target far more people. Kelly’s memos were decried by immigration advocates.
“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.”
The advocates said that one of the most troubling changes is a dramatic expansion of the government’s ability to expedite deportation of undocumented immigrants without a court appearance. Under a process created in 1996, such expedited removals have previously been applied in instances when an immigrant is caught within 100 miles of the U.S. border and within 14 days of entering the U.S.
Kelly’s memo removes the border-proximity requirement and would apply the policy to any migrant who has been in the country for less than two years.
“That would be a breathtaking expansion of the ability to pick people up and remove people from the country without ever giving them a day in court,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president for immigration at the Center for American Progress, a Washington research group affiliated with the Democratic Party.
The memos could also 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. A DHS official said on a conference call with reporters that the U.S. would work with Mexico before implementing this policy.
“U.S. law and our international treaty obligations require the U.S. government to assure that the people arriving at the U.S. borders have a meaningful opportunity to apply for asylum,” David Leopold, a Cleveland immigration lawyer and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in an interview. Sending them to Mexico to await hearings would be “unconscionable,” he said, because it could put vulnerable people at risk in that country, including teenagers, women and children.
Expedited deportations may also lead to lawsuits by undocumented immigrants claiming they were denied the limited legal rights they do have to a due process, he said.
A Mexican senator signaled that his country would reject the policy.
“This is an enormous mistake that Mexico shouldn’t accept,” Senator Zoe Robledo said by telephone. "If we suddenly have massive deportations into Mexico, we’d have a lot of pressure not only from our own population, but would be in charge of deporting others as well."
Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plan to travel to Mexico City on Wednesday to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and other top officials. Pena Nieto canceled a meeting with Trump last month over disagreements about immigration and funding of a proposed border wall.
The new directives don’t affect so-called “Dreamers,” people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, who have obtained protection from deportation under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an official said on the conference call .
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.”
BLOOMBERGTrump Team Starts Detailing Immigration Crackdown Plan in Memos