Donald Trump is following through on his promise to get even tougher than Barack Obama on deporting illegal immigrants.
The Trump administration has issued tough guidelines to widen the net for deporting illegal immigrants from the US, and speed up their removal.
Undocumented immigrants arrested for traffic violations or shop-lifting will be targeted along with those convicted of more serious crimes.
All 11 million or so undocumented foreigners in the US could be affected.
But the plan leaves in place Obama-era protections for immigrants who entered the US illegally as children.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly moved Tuesday to implement a host of immigration enforcement changes ordered by President Trump, directing agency heads to hire thousands more officers, end so-called “catch-and-release” policies and begin work on the president’s promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“It is in the national interest of the United States to prevent criminals and criminal organizations from destabilizing border security,” Kelly wrote in one of two memos released Tuesday by the department.
The memos follow up on Trump’s related executive actions from January and, at their heart, aim to toughen enforcement by expanding the categories of illegal immigrants targeted for deportation.
The memos cover a sprawling set of initiatives including:
- Prioritizing criminal illegal immigrants and others for deportation, including those convicted or charged with “any criminal offense,” or who have “abused” any public welfare program
- Expanding the 287(g) program, which allows participating local officers to act as immigration agents – and had been rolled back under the Obama administration
- Starting the planning, design and construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall
- Hiring 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and officers
- Hiring 5,000 Border Patrol agents
- Ending “catch-and-release” policies under which illegal immigrants subject to deportation potentially are allowed to “abscond” and fail to appear at removal hearings
It’s unclear what timelines the secretary is setting for some of these objectives, and what budgetary and other constraints the department and its myriad agencies will face.
In pursuing an end to “catch-and-release,” one memo called for a plan with the Justice Department to “surge” immigration judges and asylum officers to handle additional cases.
This is attempting to fulfil campaign promises, but risks major disruption of families and communities and could impact significantly on companies relying on immigrant labour.