NEW YORK – President Donald Trump’s administration issued Tuesday two memos spelling out that it will pursue aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, leading to deportations of millions of illegal immigrants, besides needing money and people to enforce such plans.
The memos signal a drastic change from the reticence shown by former President Obama to go after illegal immigrant population, estimated at 11 million in the country.
But one aspect of the Obama policy that has, so far, been retained is the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme allowing persons who entered the US illegally as children to stay in the country either for work or school.
But skeptics fear that DACA could eventually also be rescinded, going by the fierce resolve displayed by the Trump administration.
The memos, which were actually signed on Friday by the Secretary for Homeland Security, John Kelly, would mean that a huge number of immigrants would be expeditiously deported. The memos also order immigration enforcement agencies to hire thousands of new personnel who will be entrusted with apprehending illegal immigrants in coordination with local police and other authorities.
But agencies and advocates that represent immigrant interests are alarmed by the memos, fearing that these would trigger mass deportations breaking apart families and also denying the affected people the right to have due process.
Some eight million people could be affected. The National Immigration Law Center officials described the memos as a “blueprint for mass deportations”.
Administration officials have been playing down the memos, saying that they merely highlight Trump’s priorities as to who should be deported and who should be allowed to remain in the country.
Indeed, the White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied categorically, in reply to a question, that mass deportations were the goal, saying that those people who are illegal in the country and pose a threat to the public or have committed a crime, would be the first to go.
The Trump administration’s guidelines require immigrants convicted, charged or suspected of a crime to be the first to be deported. This is clearly a departure from the Obama administration’s practice which focused on violent criminals, recent illegals crossing borders and terror suspects.
Another change is that the term “expedited removals” will be widened to allow faster deportations of illegals who cannot prove they have been in the country for more than two years. The process does not require a court order.
Trump is also restoring programmes, stopped by the Obama administration, that allow local law enforcement officials to collaborate with federal immigration authorities.
These programmes allow local law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents and incarcerate immigrants, suspected of criminal activity, for longer periods before they are turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Another major change which the memos bring about is to allow deportation or criminal prosecution of adults who help the illegal entry of children into the US.
This, Trump administration officials say, would discourage Central American minors who undertake the perilous journey into the country. The numbers of children entering the U.S. have spiraled since three years, particularly with the outbreak of gang violence in several Central American countries.
“Regardless of the desires for family reunification, or conditions in other countries, the smuggling or trafficking of alien children is intolerable,” one memo says.
The memos leave many questions unanswered, such as where officials will house the people swept up in raids.
Immigration hard-liners want Trump to meet his campaign promise to end the DACA programme.
There has been rising criticism of the new immigration push by Trump, particularly from large cities considered “havens” for immigrants.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) issued a statement Monday, responding to earlier leaked copies of the memos that called the new enforcement policies “heavy-handed” and “anti-family.” Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chair of the immigration subcommittee, to hold hearings on the executive orders.
The senator also introduced a bill last week that would repeal Trump’s immigration enforcement order.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) described the Trump Administration’s “callous plan” to deport potentially millions of undocumented immigrants as a “massive step in the wrong direction”.
“We need comprehensive immigration reform, not misguided policies that waste taxpayer dollars, undermine our moral credibility, and compromise public safety by focusing our limited resources on those who pose no threat to our communities.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that this makes us safer – in addition to diverting law enforcement resources from focusing on those who commit violent crimes, this policy will erode trust between immigrants and law enforcement, which in turn undermines public safety.
“Moreover, constructing new prisons to warehouse non-violent immigrants fleeing violence, oppression, or economic despair in search of hope and opportunity in the United States is a colossal waste of taxpayer resources and diminishes our standing in the world,” – BERNAMA