Washington, DC – The Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a pair of wide-ranging orders on Tuesday (Feb. 21) for his department to implement President Donald Trump’s plans for a wider crackdown on people coming into the United States illegally.
Addressing all agents, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the memos give sweeping powers to identify, capture and quickly deport every undocumented immigrant they find.
The memos called for 10,000 more immigrant agents, expansion of the border wall between the US and Mexico, and placing undocumented immigrants caught entering the country in detention until their cases are resolved. The memos also gave extra powers to local police to help in immigration enforcement.
Although the memos mention undocumented immigrants with convicted crime as the highest priority for enforcement operations, they order ICE agents to arrest and initiate deportation proceedings against any other undocumented immigrant they encounter.
“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,” one memo read. “They also have full authority to initiate removal proceedings against any alien who is subject to removal under any provision of the (Immigration and Nationality Act).”
The authorities in DHS, however tried to remove any notion that the agency was planning mass deportations, adding that many of the new policies would take time to implement.
“We don’t need a sense of panic necessarily in these communities,” one official said in a conference call with reporters.
A DHS official, on condition of anonymity, noted that deportation protections given in 2012 under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), by former President Barack Obama to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children will continue to be honored so long as those immigrants abide by the rules of the program. Approximately over 750,000 undocumented immigrants have been granted deportation protections under DACA.
The new directives also allow Customs agents to send some people directly back to Mexico, whether they’re Mexican or not. Under previous administrations, people from Mexico and Canada could be deported directly back home. But people from all other countries, such as from Central America, had to be detained until they could be flown back to their country of origin.
Moreover, the new memos lifted protections that had been granted to undocumented immigrants under the federal Privacy Act. Now ICE will have freedom to publicly distribute information about these cases. The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE, establishes a process to keep victims and their families informed about the status of criminal cases against the undocumented immigrants and any followup deportation proceedings.
“I direct the Director of ICE to immediately reallocate any and all resources that are currently used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens … to the new VOICE Office,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wrote in one directive.