The Slatest

Homeland Security Set to Make It Much Easier to Deport Undocumented Immigrants

Relatives separated by deportation and immigration hug at the border during a reunification event named #HugsNotWalls at the banks of the Rio Bravo, a border between the U.S. and Mexico, on Jan. 28, 2017.

Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The Department of Homeland Security has drafted up new orders that would expand the number of immigrants who could be quickly detained and deported both inside the United States and at the border. Secretary John Kelly signed a series of memos that were distributed among agency chiefs on Friday and would, among other things, expand by hundreds of thousands the number of immigrants who could be subject to expedited removal from the country. The memos also note that additional enforcement agents would be hired and local law enforcement would be enlisted to help make arrests.

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The White House insists the memos are not final and the administration will make changes, but they demonstrate how Homeland Security is looking to put into practice President Donald Trump’s newly aggressive immigration policies. And, at the very least, they provide a broad look at what the first steps in the long-expected immigration crackdown could be.

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In essence, the new memos amount to a stark rewriting of the way the country’s immigration laws are enforced and would “supersede nearly all of those issued under previous administrations … including measures from President Barack Obama aimed at focusing deportations exclusively on hardened criminals and those with terrorist ties,” notes the Washington Post. One thing the memos don’t include? Any talk of using National Guard troops to arrest immigrants that had been part of a draft document that was leaked on Friday. (Officials say Kelly never approved that plan.)

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The most significant moves outlined in the memos include:

  • Authorizing expedited deportation proceedings for any undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for less than two years. The procedure is currently limited to those who have been in the United States for less than two weeks.
  • Unaccompanied minors who arrive in the United States would no longer be protected from deportation, and their parents could face prosecution if they paid traffickers to smuggle their children across the border.
  • The bar will be raised on the initial screening of asylum seekers, giving officers more leeway to narrowly interpret whether the applicant has “credible fear” of persecution if returned home.
  • Immigrants who are caught crossing the border from Mexico will be immediately sent back to the country while their deportation hearings are pending. That means non-Mexican asylum seekers could be sent to Mexico to wait for their hearings.
  • For now, the memos leave in place President Obama’s protection of the so-called “dreamers,” who arrived to the United States as children. But that doesn’t seem final, considering that one memo explicitly says there is no protected class of immigrants.
  • The definition of who is considered a criminal for deportation purposes would be expanded to not only those who have actually been convicted of a crime, but also to those who have been (or could be) charged.
  • Money used to advocate on behalf of undocumented immigrants would go toward setting up the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office.
  • Agency chiefs are to begin hiring 10,000 additional ICE agents and 5,000 more members of the Border Patrol.

The Department of Homeland Security is not commenting on the documents but did not dispute that they are authentic.

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