Here’s the difference between Trump’s new immigration orders and Obama’s policy

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued new guidance on Tuesday outlining how his department will enforce President Donald Trump’s order to crack down on immigration.

The goal is not “mass deportation” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained, but to eliminate exceptions President Barack Obama’s administration allowed to keep immigrants who weren’t a threat from being deported.

“Remember, everybody who is here illegally is subject to removal at any time,” Spicer said at the press briefing on Tuesday. “The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies and say: You have a mission, there are laws that need to be followed; you should do your mission and follow the law.”

How does Trump’s new immigration policy, and Kelly’s implementation of it, compare to Obama’s? We broke it down.

How many unauthorised immigrants are in the US?

Official data from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates just over 11 million unauthorised immigrants live in the US, making up 3% of the population.

How many did Obama deport?

During Obama’s eight years in office, ICE deported over 3.1 million unauthorised immigrants, the majority of whom were criminals.

In 2016, for example, ICE officials removed 240,255 people, 58% of whom were apprehended at or near the border. Of the 65,332 individuals apprehended inside the country, 92% were previously convicted of a crime, according to DHS statistics.

What’s the same?

Immigration protest trump
Protesters call for an end to stepped up ICE raids and deportations in Los Angeles, California on February 18, 2017. David McNew/Getty Images


Trump left Obama’s 2012 executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) intact.

The action allowed immigrants under 31 who came to the US as children to apply for a deferred action where the government wouldn’t deport them for two years and they could legally work in the country. Applicants could also reapply for DACA if they still met the criteria, and US Citizenship and Immigration Services determine if they can stay on a case-by-case basis.

Obama tried to expand this deferred action to include the parents of green card holders or children who were granted DACA privileges, but the courts struck down that order, and a 4-4 Supreme Court let that stay in place.

Protecting sensitive locations

The DHS policy preventing enforcement activities at “sensitive locations” remains in effect. These include schools, places of worship, hospitals, and public demonstrations like rallies so that unauthorised immigrants can attend these locations “without fear” of being rounded up and deported.

Prioritising criminals

The Obama administration specifically prioritised criminals, those who “posed threats to national security,” and gang members. That’s not going to change under Trump.

“All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States,” a DHS Q&A on the implementation reads. “The guidance makes clear, however, that ICE should prioritise several categories of removable aliens who have committed crime, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offence.”

What’s different?

Ice immigration raid
Foreign nationals are arrested during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by ICE agents, aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 2017. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Associated Press

Not just criminals

In short, Trump’s goal is to deport more unauthorised immigrants than Obama did, faster.

While Spicer focused on removing criminals, the DHS memos repeatedly say that “all of those in violation of the immigration laws” — i.e. anyone who entered the country illegally — can be deported at any time.

10,000 agents

Trump plans to hire 10,000 ICE agents, effectively tripling the force, since the agency employed 5,700 deportation officers under Obama.

Kelly also outlined that the administration will encourage and train local law enforcement to perform ICE duties, such as apprehending suspected unauthorised immigrants. Many mayors have declared their territories to be “sanctuary cities” where local law enforcement won’t participate in this 287(g) program.

Expedited removal

The number of people subject to “expedited removal,” will expand, meaning they will largely bypass court proceedings before they are deported.

Under Obama, ICE agents invoked this authority when they apprehended immigrants within 100 miles of the US border, within 14 days of when they crossed it. Trump has expanded expedited removal to within two years of crossing, no matter where unauthorised immigrants were apprehended.

Removing privacy protections

This policy, which Trump rescinded, dates back to President George W. Bush’s administration, which Obama left intact. Bush ordered DHS agents to protect the privacy of personally identifiable information collected from unauthorised immigrants they apprehended. Trump’s administration will no longer enforce this policy.

The border

The DHS memos direct federal resources to be used to expand detention centres to hold detained immigrants and to build the wall along the border with Mexico.

It’s unclear how much both of these directives will cost, though a DHS internal report estimated the wall alone will cost $US21.6 billion.

Seeking asylum

Trump’s order changes the process for people claiming asylum from the United States because they suffer persecution in the countries they fled for their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group.

Under Obama, asylum officers typically referred most cases for the courts to decide. But Trump’s policy directs the officers to determine whether they think an applicant has “credible fear” to be granted asylum.

“The goal of DHS is to ensure the asylum process is not abused,” a DHS Q&A on the policy reads. “Asylum officers are being directed to conduct credible fear interviews in a manner that allows the interviewing officer to elicit all relevant information from the alien as is necessary to make a legally sufficient determination.”

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