President Trump issued a series of Executive Orders on immigration during his first few weeks in office.
Two orders were issued on January 25, 2017, including “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” and “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States. A third Order was issued on January 27th, 2017, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” however the implementation of that Order has been stalled pending a review by the court system. Since the issuance of the Orders, there have been many questions surrounding how exactly the government would implement them and how it would impact individuals and families in the United States. On February 17, 2017, then Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly issued two memos to address these questions.
Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest
The first of the memos issued by then Secretary Kelly is entitled “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest.” Among other things, this memo states that, unlike the prior practice of prioritizing individuals for apprehension and removal, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now execute immigration laws against “all removable aliens” and will no longer “exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” The memo defines removable aliens as those convicted of any criminal offense, even minor offenses, as well as those who have been charged with a criminal offense, even though there has been no conviction. The memo rescinds the pre-existing guidance and availability of “prosecutorial discretion” in which individuals were considered for administrative closure of their pending cases due to factors such as a lack of criminal history and family ties to the U.S., and also encourages the fast-track removal of certain individuals and increased involvement from local law enforcement in the enforcement of immigration laws. Also included in the memo is an order to the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire 10,000 new ICE agents and officers.
Implementing the President’s Border Security & Immigration Enforcement and Improvement Policies
The second memo issued by former DHS Secretary Kelly is entitled “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies.” This memo requires DHS to detain nearly everyone it apprehends until they have either been processed through the immigration court system, are removed, or are paroled into the U.S. The memo notes that there is currently no capacity to detain such an increase in individuals- an estimated 200,000 people per day- but states that at some point there will be a sufficient number of judges and asylum officers to accommodate the increase. Like the other memo, this memo also calls on local law enforcement to act as immigration agents and orders immediate additional hiring, including the hiring of 5,000 border patrol agents and 500 “Air and Marine Agents/Officers.” The memo expands the use of “expedited removal” and orders Custom and Border Protection to “immediately begin planning, design, construction, and maintenance of a wall, including the attendant lighting, technology (including sensors), as well as patrol and access roads, along the land border with Mexico.” DHS has estimated that it will cost $21 billion to build an additional 1250 miles of fencing and other physical barriers by 2020.
With the Implementation of Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration in place and now this guidance from the Secretary of Homeland Security explaining how the Orders will be implemented, it appears that many changes will be coming in the area of immigration. Stay tuned for more in the weeks and months ahead.