The Trump Administration released new rules Tuesday that will hugely increase the number of undocumented people who are targeted for deportation. The new directives from the Department of Homeland Security call more people to be deported more quickly, even for non-violent crimes like abuse of public benefits. It also directs the agency to hire 10,000 new immigration and customs officials, and build new detention facilities to hold everyone who is suddenly considered an imminent threat to the nation.
As The Hill notes, the new rules, implemented under Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, repeal all the directives issued to immigration officials by the Obama administration. Instead of focusing on the deportation of people convicted of violent crimes, the new rules expand the definition of what a “criminal alien” is. From the New York Times:
Now, immigration agents, customs officers and border patrol agents have been directed to remove anyone convicted of any criminal offense.
That includes people convicted of fraud in any official matter before a governmental agency and people who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”
The policy also calls for an expansion of expedited removals, allowing Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent to deport more people immediately. Under the Obama administration, expedited removal was used only within 100 miles of the border for people who had been in the country no more than 14 days. Now it will include those who have been in the country for up to two years, and located anywhere in the nation.
Among other things, the new rules also direct that parents and guardians who help their children immigrate illegally could be prosecuted and even deported. A Q&A released by the Department of Homeland Security refers to children entering the country illegally as “smuggling” and “trafficking:”
The parents and family members of these children, who are often illegally present in the United States, often pay smugglers several thousand dollars to bring their children into this country. Tragically, many of these children fall victim to robbery, extortion, kidnapping, sexual assault, and other crimes of violence by the smugglers and other criminal elements along the dangerous journey through Mexico to the United States. Regardless of the desires for family reunification, or conditions in other countries, the smuggling or trafficking of alien children is intolerable. Accordingly, DHS shall ensure the proper enforcement of our immigration laws against those who—directly or indirectly—facilitate the smuggling or trafficking of alien children into the United States. This includes placing parents or guardian who are removable aliens into removal proceedings, or referring such individuals for criminal prosecution, as appropriate.
The new rules also confirm something ProPublica reported: that the United States now intends to deport people to Mexico who are not, in fact, from Mexico.
Weirdly, the New York Times reports that DHS officials insisting on anonymity confirmed that detail (although it’s not clear why DHS officials speaking on a conference call were allowed to be anonymous), with the proviso that non-Mexican nationals wouldn’t be sent to Mexico all that often:
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity during a morning conference call, stressed that some of the proposals for increased enforcement will roll out slowly as the department finalizes the logistics and legal rules for more aggressive action.
In particular, the officials said that returning Central American refugees to Mexico to await hearings would be done only in a limited fashion, and only after discussions with the government of Mexico, which would most likely have to agree to accept the refugees.
The new guidelines will, at least, not affect people protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Nonetheless, immigration rights groups are still furious and frightened. Javier H. Valdés is the co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, which advocates for immigrants and working-class, primarily Latino communities in the city. He issued a statement calling the new guidelines “morally bankrupt:”
“These memos confirm what we’ve long feared—that General Kelly is an eager accomplice to President Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade. The DHS plans signal a morally bankrupt effort to tear immigrants from their families without due process. Their implementation will also jeopardize the safety of all by reducing trust in local law enforcement by turning local officers into immigration enforcement deputies. And the provision to punish parents for trying to reunite their families is truly reprehensible. Immigrant communities and our allies will resist these policies. We are here to stay.”
According to the Washington Post, Trump officials are somehow hoping the new rules won’t set off fear and panic in immigrant communities, saying they’re not meant to trigger mass deportations (even though they provide a legal and structural framework for mass deportations). The same anonymous DHS officials quoted by the New York Times assured everyone that this whole thing will be handled very sensitively, and besides, the department doesn’t currently have enough staff for mass deportations anyway:
“We do not need a sense of panic in the communities,” a DHS official said in a conference call with reporters to formally release the memos to the public.
“We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination,” said the official, who was joined on the call by two others, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to answer questions. “This is not intended to produce mass roundups, mass deportations.”
“We will treat everyone humanely and with dignity,” the official added, per the Post. “But we’re going to execute the laws of the United States.”
You can read a Q&A from the Department of Homeland Security here on how the new rules will be enforced.