The Department of Homeland Security released two memos on Tuesday meant to guide the implementation of two executive orders President Donald Trump signed in January on border security and immigration law enforcement.
Under the guidelines, federal authorities will have increased power to detain and deport unauthorised immigrants. The memos also expand the amount of individuals who can be subjected to “expedited removal,” meaning they will largely bypass court proceedings.
The memos detail the increased resources that will be directed to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agencies, including the hiring of 10,000 officers and agents. And the guidelines allow for increased enlistment of local law enforcement agencies in acting as immigration officers — an effort which many big-city mayors have sought to prevent by proclaiming their statuses as “sanctuary cities.”
As justification for the measures, the memos cite an uptick of apprehensions at the southern border that has “significantly strained DHS resources,” as well as a backlog of 534,000 pending immigration cases across the country.
Trump campaigned on promises to crack down on the approximately 11 million immigrants living in the US illegally, as well as building a wall along the US-Mexico border to prevent future arrivals.
“The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wrote in the memos.
“Thousands of aliens apprehended at the border, placed in removal proceedings, and released from custody have absconded and failed to appear at their removal hearings.”
The memos also rescind any prior directives or orders issued by previous administrations that offered conflicting directions on immigration enforcement or the prioritisation of deportees.
Notably, these new guidelines leave untouched the executive order signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012 on deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), which shields from deportation those undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children.
The memos don’t include any mention of the use of National Guard forces to assist in the apprehension of undocumented immigrants, a measure the Associated Press reported on Friday was being considered by the Trump administration.
Already, Democrats and immigration advocates have decried the measures laid out in the DHS memos, and accused them of laying the groundwork for mass deportations.
“We need an immediate public examination in Congress of these heavy-handed, anti-family policies,” Senator Dick Durbin said in a statement, calling for hearings in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration.
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