New guidelines that empower federal authorities to more aggressively detain and deport undocumented immigrants inside the United States and at the border were signed off on by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and released Tuesday.
NPR reports that the new rules align with the executive orders President Donald Trump issued in late January, calling for increased border security and stricter enforcement of immigration laws.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “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. And we will be aggressively making sure that occurs. That is what the priority is.”
The new rules would call for the Department of Homeland Security to greatly expand the number of immigrants who are prioritized for removal to include any person who is 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 whom an immigration officer deems a risk to public safety or national security.
Because the rules are written so broadly, immigrant-rights advocates say that they make anyone in the country illegally a target for deportation, and that could affect as many as 8 to 11 million people.
“In my many years of practicing immigration law, I have not seen a mass-deportation blueprint like this one,” Maria Elena Hincapie, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said.
“This means an undocumented mother ... who has been living in the United States for over 10 years and has a U.S. citizen child she’s nursing would now also be considered a priority,” Hincapie said.
“Today’s memos offer a guide from Trump to enact his mass deportation agenda which he talked about during the campaign trail,” Hincapie added. “But [the memos] actually are even more extreme than his rhetoric.”
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.
NPR reports that the policies call for an expansion of the federal program that enlists the help of state and local police to help enforce immigration laws, but that partnership has come under fire by critics who allege that it has led to racial profiling. This proved true in Maricopa County, Ariz., where, in 2011, the federal government ended its agreement with then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio after the Justice Department found that officers in that county unlawfully stopped and detained Latinos.
Meanwhile, DHS said Tuesday that the program is a “highly successful force multiplier,” that local officers go through extensive training and that racial profiling would not be tolerated.
Read more at NPR.