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DHS guidelines sharpen focus on immigrants in US illegally, plan border wall

In this Feb. 9, 2017, photo provided U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE agents at a home in Atlanta, during a targeted enforcement operation aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens. The Homeland Security Department said Feb. 13, that 680 people were arrested in roundups last week targeting immigrants living illegally in the United States. (Bryan Cox/ICE via AP)

WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department has drafted sweeping new guidelines aimed at aggressively detaining and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, according to a pair of memoranda signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly.

The memos dated Friday seek to implement President Donald Trump’s broad directive to crack down on illegal immigration. Kelly outlines plans to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand on the priority list for immigrants marked for immediate removal and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests.

“The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” Kelly wrote.

The memos leave in place one directive from the Obama administration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young people who were brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits. The program has protected about 750,000 immigrants since its inception in 2012.

Trump has previously indicated his desire to end the program, but at his press conference last week indicated that he would “show great heart” toward the program.

Kelly said apprehensions on the southern U.S. border had seen an additional surge of 10,000 to 15,000 per month from 2015 to 2016.

The memos were reported first by the Washington Post and other news organizations Saturday. A U.S. official familiar with the documents did not dispute the accuracy of the memos signed by Kelly, which were originally scheduled for release Friday before they were postponed for White House review.

Under the guidelines, Kelly seeks to “expeditiously hire” 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 5,000 Border Patrol officers.

Seeking to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, Kelly also called on Customs 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.”

He described the wall as necessary to deter illegal immigration and called it a “critical component” of Trump’s overall border security strategy.

Prior to the DHS draft memos, a southern Arizona mayor called Trump’s wall a waste of money.

“We can do so much even with a little bit of those funds,” Douglas Mayor Robert Uribe said, adding he could use the funds to improve his city’s roads, schools and infrastructure.

Kelly said the department will also prioritize for more immediate removal those who have been convicted of a crime; charged with a crime; committed fraud in connection with a matter before a government agency; abused any program related to public benefits; or have not complied with orders to leave the country.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said the new guidelines go against American values.

“Under these new rules, ICE can go after people who have not been found guilty of committing a crime and remove them from the country within days of their arrest,” he said in a statement. “It also strips anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of many due process protections.”

Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the proposed guidelines as a Trump style of immigration enforcement in which “due process, human decency and common sense are treated as inconvenient obstacles on the path to mass deportation.”

“The Trump administration is intent on inflicting cruelty on millions of immigrant families across the country,” she said in a statement.

At least one immigrant from Phoenix, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, has been deported from the country under Trump’s expanded immigration orders.

Under the new guidelines, local law enforcement would be enlisted to help curb illegal immigration under the 287(g) program. That idea is likely to be met with a hostile welcome in the Valley, as Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has said he would not allow police to serve as immigration officers.

Additionally, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said his jails will not detain suspected illegal immigrants past their release date to give federal authorities extra time to launch deportation proceedings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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