The White House released more focused and broad roadmap on immigration yesterday
about how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin implementing President
Trump’s immigration Executive Orders on border security and immigration enforcement.
What is in the memos?
1. An end to long-standing protections for children. DHS intends to strip many children
arriving alone at our border of basic protections and to penalize their parents for
seeking to reunite with their children in the United States. They will do this by narrowing the definition of “unaccompanied alien child” in order to limit those protections and by launching either civil or criminal enforcement against the parents.
This will result not only in scaring parents from coming forward to reunite with their
children but also lead to more young children representing themselves in immigration court against a seasoned government attorney.
2. Avoid immigration courts and chill due process. The memos indicate that many
people in the interior of the country – not just those at the border – could be subject
to expedited deportation without going before an immigration judge where they can
be represented by a lawyer of their choice. Yeah, it is possible and has always been
possible – only that few had dared invoke this possibility. This expansion of “expedited removal,” will allow the government to bypass the backlogged immigration courts in order to deport people rapidly and will have a chilling effect on
immigration due process as we know it.
3. Massive expansion of detention. The memos contemplate a massive expansion of
detention, including a requirement that DHS officers detain nearly everyone they
apprehend at or near the border. This detention space expansion—a boon to the private prison industry—means that more children, families and other vulnerable groups seeking protection in the United States will end up detained, at great financial
and human cost.
4. Prosecution priorities and discretion eliminated: (this oftentimes is when ICE got to
pick and choose who to deport or pursue as well as “forgive” others on a case by case
basis). Accordingly, the new memos rescind earlier policies on whom to prosecute
and deport and whom to deprioritize because they pose no threat to our
communities. The new enforcement priorities are extremely broad covering nearly all
undocumented individuals in the United States. They even include individuals simply
charged or suspected of having committed crimes.
5. Creation of a Deportation Army. The memos order the hiring of 5,000 additional
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and 10,000 additional Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The 287(g) program gets expanded
exponentially—a law that allows DHS to deputize state and local law enforcement
officers to perform the functions of immigration agents. And, they reinstate Secure
Communities and terminate the Priority Enforcement Program, which expand the ways in which local police collaborate with ICE. For your information, Secure Communities was an immigration enforcement program administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from 2008 to 2014. The program was to their database of fingerprints.
Our take on this: While the feasibility of many of these policies depends on Congressional willingness to fund them and whether they overcome judicial review tests, it is clear that, the pages of the new guidelines are penned in ink that is heavy on punishments and light on compassion and/or humanity. They will separate families, cultivate fear among immigrant communities, and destabilize our economy. The memos reveal that DHS inetends to take this immigrant nation backwards in terms of guaranteeing due process, providing a safe haven for those who need it, and building productive and safe communities where everyone can thrive. This being a nation, whose greatness is sans doute heaved off the backs and sweat of immigrants for centuries