Homeland Security Outlines New Rules Tightening Enforcement Of Immigration Law

February 21, 2017

Updated 5:25 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is releasing more on its plans to crack down on illegal immigration, enforcing the executive orders President Trump issued in late January. Those orders called for increased border security and stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

The Department of Homeland Security issued the new rules on Tuesday, laid out in two documents signed by Secretary John Kelly.

“Those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public safety, or have committed a crime, will be the first to go,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters. “And we will be aggressively making sure that occurs. That is what the priority is.”

Under the new rules, the department would greatly expand the number of immigrants who are prioritized for removal. This includes a person in the country illegally who may have committed a crime but not been charged, who has “abused any program related to receipt of public benefits,” or who an immigration officer deems a risk to public safety or national security.

Immigrant rights advocates say the rules are written so broadly that they make anyone in the country illegally a target for deportation — potentially, as many as eight to 11 million people.

“In my many years of practicing immigration law, I have not seen a mass deportation blueprint like this one,” said Maria Elena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“This means an undocumented mother … who has been living in the United States for over ten years and has a U.S. citizen child she’s nursing would now also be considered a priority, ” she said.

“Today’s memos offer a guide from Trump to enact his mass deportation agenda which he talked about during the campaign trail,” said Hincapie. “But [the memos] actually are even more extreme than his rhetoric.”

The White House and DHS deny that the rules amount to a blueprint for mass deportation.

While the new policies call for a “surge” in the deployment of immigration judges and other personnel, DHS officials said the agency is not planning mass deportations and that many of the new policies would take time to implement.

“We don’t need a sense of panic necessarily in these communities,” one DHS official said in a conference call with reporters.

Homeland Security officials said the policies would not affect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama administration program that offered protection from deportation for so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The DHS wants to expand the use of so-called expedited removal, in which migrants do not appear before an immigration judge before being deported. Under the Obama administration, those expedited deportations had been limited to those in the country for two weeks or less, and within 100 miles of the border. DHS officials say they could seek to expand the use of expedited removal all over the country, for immigrants who have been in the U.S. for up to two years. Those rules have not yet been finalized.

In addition, the policies call for an expansion of a federal program that enlists state and local police to enforce immigration laws.

That partnership has come under fire from critics who allege that it has led to racial profiling. The federal government terminated one such agreement with Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2011 after the Justice Department found that county officers unlawfully stopped and detained Latinos.

On Tuesday, DHS called the program “a highly successful force multiplier.” Officials said local officers go through extensive training and that racial profiling would not be tolerated.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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