The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has outlined policies that could result in the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly released the guidelines Tuesday specifying how his department will carry out a pair of executive orders President Donald Trump issued last month.
Under the previous administration of President Barack Obama the focus on deporting people who entered the country illegally was on those who committed serious crimes.
Kelly rescinded those policies, saying now priorities for deportation are people who are convicted or charged with any crime, have committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense, abused a program to get public aid, or in the judgment of an immigration officer pose a public safety or national security threat.
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The new guidelines do not roll back Obama’s executive orders deferring action against people who came into the country illegally when they were children, or undocumented parents of people who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Trump won election in November promising to make securing U.S. borders and going after undocumented immigrants a priority. He has issued a number of executive orders, including one to suspend the nation’s refugee admittance program and another banning entry to people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The entry ban order has been suspended by the courts, but Trump is expected to issue an updated version soon.
“Effective immediately,” Kelly said in his memo, “department personnel shall faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.”
He called for hiring ten thousand Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and five thousand Border Patrol agents, while also working to expand a program that allows state or local law enforcement officers to be designated as immigration officers.
Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, said the Trump administration is “going backward” with its immigration policy, which has a tone “suggesting that undocumented immigrants are criminals.”
“What is clear to me is that they are going back to a secure communities kind of policy where they are charging local law enforcement with the responsibility to enforce immigration laws,” Harris said. “They are lowering the bar and suggesting that anything, even that somebody may have committed a crime, might qualify for deportation. That’s just extreme and outrageous.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer criticized the new plans as not doing anything to keep Americans safe.
“Democrats agree that removing violent criminals is a priority. However, it is reprehensible that the administration is taking steps to round up and quickly deport non-violent immigrants, waste limited resources, and weaken due process and privacy rights,” he said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican, praised what he called the end of the Obama’s administration’s “disastrous policies.”
“I applaud President Trump and Secretary Kelly for taking the actions needed to help end the surge of illegal immigration at the Southwest border and restore the integrity of our immigration system,” Goodlatte said.
The new guidelines also call for regular reports from Homeland Security detailing the citizenship, nature of crimes, and custody status of undocumented immigrants who have been apprehended.
The new guidelines also call for regular reports from Homeland Security about undocumented immigrants who are apprehended. The information will include their country of citizenship, nature of crimes, custody status, and if they are released, the reason and location of that release.
Kelly called for ending so-called “catch-and-release” policies, with a surge in immigration judges and asylum officers to more quickly deal with cases and expanded detention facilities to handle keeping more people in custody during the process. He said anyone caught crossing a border should be sent back to the country they crossed from, not their country of origin.
DHS will also establish an office aimed at providing victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants with information about offenders, including their immigration and custody status.
“The Department will no long afford Privacy Act rights and protections to persons who are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents,” Kelly said.
The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the new policies, saying it is “ready to fight.”
“The Trump administration is willing to trample on due process, human decency, the well-being of our communities, and even protections for vulnerable children, in pursuit of a hyper-aggressive mass deportation policy,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the group’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “However, President Trump does not have the last word here — the courts and the public will not allow this un-American dream to become reality.”