Today two memos were signed by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly implementing the President’s Executive Orders on immigration enforcement. Although much attention has been focused on building the border wall, these memos also direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to drastically escalate harsh immigration enforcement nationwide. The memos reveal that DHS intends to take our nation backwards in guaranteeing due process, providing a safe haven for those who need it, and building productive and safe communities where everyone can thrive.
What is in the memos?
1. An end to long-standing protections for children. DHS intends to strip many children arriving alone at our border of basic protections and to penalize their parents for seeking to reunite with their children in the United States. They will do this by narrowing the definition of “unaccompanied alien child” to limit those protections and by launching either civil or criminal enforcement against the parents.
2. A massive expansion of detention. The memos contemplate a massive expansion of detention, requiring that DHS officers detain nearly everyone they apprehend at or near the border. This detention space expansion—a boon to the private prison industry—means that more children, families and other vulnerable groups seeking protection in the United States will end up detained, at great financial and human cost.
3. Prosecution priorities and discretion are gone. The new memos rescind earlier policies on whom to prosecute and deport and whom to deprioritize because they pose no threat to our communities. The new enforcement priorities are broad covering nearly all undocumented individuals in the United States. They even include individuals simply charged or suspected of having committed crimes.
4. Creation of a deportation force. The memos order the hiring of 5,000 additional Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and 10,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. They direct a massive expansion of 287(g)—a law that allows DHS to deputize state and local law enforcement officers to perform the functions of immigration agents. And, they reinstate Secure Communities and terminate the Priority Enforcement Program, which expand how local police collaborate with ICE.
5. Plans to bypass immigration courts and short-circuit due process. The memos indicate that many people in the interior of the country – not just those at the border – could be subject to expedited deportation without going before a judge, the details of which DHS said will be forthcoming in a notice in the Federal Register. This expansion of “expedited removal,” will allow the government to bypass the backlogged immigration courts to deport people rapidly and with little-to-no due process.
6. Establish procedures to collect fines. Directs ICE, CBP and USCIS to issue guidance and promulgate regulations “as soon as practicable” to execute the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties against aliens and those who facilitate their unlawful presence.
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