The Trump administration changed several key aspects of U.S. immigration policy through new guidance memos issued Tuesday, which included the recommendation to send any illegal immigrant caught crossing the U.S. southern border back to Mexico, regardless of their country of origin.
The memos also directed Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) officials to target and deport a wider range of illegal immigrants than the previous guidance stated. DHS Secretary John Kelly helped craft the new directive in one of his first major policy moves.
During the Obama administration, illegal aliens not convicted of a crime, or guilty of a more minor offense — such as coming to the U.S. illegally — were not sought for deportation.
Trump, however, expanded the scope of ICE’s deportation focus to illegal immigrants who committed minor offenses, such as a traffic violation, or other smaller civil violation. Under U.S. code, immigrants who overstay their visa have only committed a civil offense, not a criminal one. Trump is aiming to deport those legal immigrants who then became illegal as well.
The crackdown on immigration policy has sent shock waves throughout American communities with high immigrant populations and have put many on edge. One DHS official sought to calm nerves by explaining that the government does not have the resources for deporting large swathes of people.
“We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination,” said the official, who spoke to the Washington Post anonymously. “This is not intended to produce mass roundups, mass deportations.”
However, the directive does call for the hiring of 10,000 ICE and 5,000 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to give more manpower to the new policies.
Mexican officials were unimpressed with Trump’s desire to send all illegals caught on the border back to their country. Legally, AP notes that the U.S. may not be able to force the sovereign country to accept individuals who are not Mexican citizens. Regardless, Trump’s forceful attitude towards illegal immigrants who do not pose a threat to national security, or who have not been convicted of a serious crime, may face even greater backlash.
“The Trump people have clearly bought into the model of harsh enforcement. They apparently think, ‘we’ll be tough, and a lot of people will leave on their own,’” said Dave Martin, a former DHS official and current professor immigration law professor at the University of Virginia.
“They believe they’ll win in the court of public opinion. I’m not sure about that. A lot of Americans know hard-working undocumented immigrants. The kind of enforcement Trump’s people are talking about will visibly create many more sympathetic cases than unsympathetic ones.”
One group of immigrants that will escape Trump’s new policies are the so-called “dreamers” — those who came to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents.
“Anyone who complained about Obama as the ‘deporter-in-chief’ is unfortunately going to get a taste of what it’s like when someone is really gung-ho,” Martin concluded.
[AP] [Washington Post] [Reuters] [ProPublica] [Photo courtesy Kevin Lamarque/Reuters via PBS]