John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), just took steps to support President Donald Trump’s plan for deporting undocumented immigrants. Kelly issued two memoranda today (February 21) that are meant to provide DHS with guidance for implementing three executive orders signed by the president: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States and Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.
Dated February 20, the implementation memos represent a shift in how the federal government enforces immigration laws. As The New York Times reports, under President Barack Obama, undocumented immigrants with convictions for serious crimes were prioritized for deportation. Now, agents are charged with arresting anyone who has been convicted of any criminal offense—or even just suspected of one:
Additionally, regardless of the basis of removability, Department personnel should prioritize removable aliens who: (I) have been convicted of any criminal offense; (2) have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved; (3) have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense; (4) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency; (5) have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; (6) are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or (7) in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
The new rules also order the immediate hiring of 10,000 Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, 5,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and 500 air and marine agents. They also expand the 287(g) Program, which currently grants local and state law enforcement officers in 32 jurisdictions the power to carry out the duties of an immigration officer “in relation to the investigation, apprehension or detention of aliens in the United States.”
The memos also commission a study of the security on the nation’s southern border to “identify vulnerabilities and provide recommendations to enhance border security” and order that construction be started on the border wall immediately. In addition, the memos establish an ICE office dedicated to people it identifies as victims of crimes committed by immigrants, to be funded with resources “that are currently used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens.”
Anonymous officials told reporters that the new directives will not impact the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects DREAMers who immigrated as children.