Homeland Security chief John Kelly issued a memo to department leadership Monday, outlining how agencies will implement anti-immigration executive orders given last month by President Trump.
The guidance broadens the criteria of individuals eligible for removal from the country. It also loosens restrictions on immediate deportations, and orders Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offices to reallocate funding away from immigration advocacy programs.
The move also allows for the hiring of 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and for the dismantling of safeguards erected for undocumented immigrants during the latter years of the Obama administration.
Kelly’s directive begins to put into practice executive orders signed by President Trump during his first week in office, when he tasked DHS with expediting the apprehension and removal of “illegal aliens.”
The directive, however, leaves untouched one of former President Obama’s signatures lifelines to undocumented immigrants: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The initiative, launched from a 2014 executive order, grants work permits to more than 750,000 individuals who came to the US illegally as children, shielding them from deportation.
Beyond that, Kelly’s memo states that, “the Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
It marks a significant shift away from DHS policy inherited by the new administration, though it does bare resemblance to the aggressive enforcement that characterized the early years of the Obama administration.
While in office, Obama deported more than 2.5 million people — a far greater number than any other president in US history.
President Trump, however, seems to have his sights set higher, declaring eligible for deportation any undocumented immigrant who has committed a crime, including minor offenses. In the latter years of the Obama administration, the department prioritized only those who were convicted of serious crimes, or repeat offenders.
Trump also departs from his predecessor by clearing away most restrictions on expedited deportations.
Prior to Kelly’s directive, immediate removal was only doled out to individuals captured within 100 miles of the border, less than 14 days after entering the country. Current policy now expands expedited actions to those apprehended anywhere in the US who have been in the country fewer than two years.
In blunt language, Kelly also instructed DHS agencies to redirect funding for immigrant outreach programs to provide information to victims of crimes involving undocumented immigrants.
“I direct the Director of ICE to immediately reallocate any and all resources that are currently used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens,” the memo states, “to the new VOICE Office (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement).”
The office’s purpose, according to Kelly: “is to ensure that they are provided information about the offender, including the offender’s immigration status and custody status, and that their questions and concerns regarding immigration enforcement efforts are addressed.”
The release of the DHS order comes days after an Associated Press report, which revealed the existence of draft memo within the department that considered mobilizing 100,000 National Guard troops as a deportation force.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the report “100 percent not true.”
Still immigrants in the US are on edge following a series of raids and enforcement actions by authorities in the last few weeks. Recent ICE raids in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, netted roughly 700 people. And while the actions were reminiscent of measures taken during the Obama administration, activists told The Guardian that Trump’s raids were “more aggressive and sweeping” than what was seen in prior years.
Even individuals supposed to be protected under DACA — known as “Dreamers” — have been targeted by immigration agents under Trump. They include a 19-year-old arrested for possessing a small amount of marijuana in San Antonio last week, and a 23-year-old parent of a US citizen who was arrested in Seattle two weeks ago.