Trump signs executive order directing enforcement priorities; DHS issues enforcement memo
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 25 directing the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the removal of immigrants in the country illegally.
The order set wide parameters on the categories of people who would become a priority, ranging from individuals engaged in terrorist activities to people charged with crimes but not yet convicted.
Trump's directive makes the "broadest possible definition of 'criminal alien,' " said David Martin, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Virginia and former principal deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump's executive order said enforcement priorities include "removable aliens" who are or have:
- Described in specific sections of immigration laws: such as individuals convicted of crimes "involving moral turpitude" (murder, for instance), engage in terrorist activities, are convicted on weapon charges;
- Convicted of any criminal offense;
- Charged with any criminal offense, even if the charge has not been resolved;
- Committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense
- Engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation related to any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
- Abused programs related to receipt of public benefits;
- Subject to final order of removal; and,
- Pose a risk to public safety or national security, based on the judgment of an immigration officer.
Individuals who entered the country illegally -- without committing another crime -- are included in the order's call for removing immigrants who committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense, Martin said.
An individual living in the country illegally is subject to deportation under immigration law -- he or she doesn't have to be a convicted criminal to be eligible for removal. But toward the end of the Obama administration, people who were not convicted criminals were not the highest deportation priority.
A DHS memo dated Feb. 20 presented guidance on the new order's implementation.
The document rescinded prior department memos regarding enforcement priorities. But it excluded from revocation two documents: a 2012 memo on deferred action for immigrants who came to the country as children and a 2014 memo that removed an age cap for immigrants who came as children and expanded the prosecutorial discretion to parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
More than 742,000 people have been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as DACA. (A 23-year-old who had been granted deferred deportation protection was detained by immigration authorities Feb. 10 in Washington state. ICE said he was arrested based on admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety.) The extended DACA provisions in the 2014 memo, along with a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), were not implemented due to court challenges.
Aside from exemptions noted in the memo, "the department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," Kelly said.
"All of those in violation of immigration law may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States," said a Q&A posted on DHS' website related to the executive order.
DHS also said it plans to expand the 287(g) program, which trains and authorizes local and state law enforcement officers to carry out federal immigration law. At the time, ICE has program agreements with more than 30 law enforcement agencies in 16 states, according to the agency.
At a press briefing Feb. 21, a reporter asked Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer: "Is one of the goals here mass deportation?"
"No," Spicer responded, emphasizing a priority on removing criminal immigrants.
"The message from this White House and from the DHS is that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public, or have committed a crime, will be the first to go, and we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs," Spicer said. "That is what the priority is."
Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University Law School professor, said that under new executive orders and DHS implementing memos, many more people will be detained and deported.
However, deportations may not happen as quickly as people might expect, due to backlogs for appearing before an immigration judge, Yale-Loehr said.
"Unless the administration finds funding to hire more immigration judges, those backlogs will skyrocket," Yale-Loehr said. "Congress also needs to find money to hire more border patrol and immigration enforcement personnel to carry out the executive orders."
Pending removals, we rate this promise In the Works.
White House, Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, Jan. 25, 2017
Department of Homeland Security, Memo on enforcement priorities, Nov. 20, 2014
Department of Homeland Security, Q&A: DHS Implementation of the Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, Feb. 21, 2017
Department of Homeland Security, DHS Statement on Arrest of Alien Gang Member in Washington, Feb. 15, 2017
Phone interview, David Martin, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Virginia, Feb. 15, 2017
Email exchange, Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell University Law School professor, Feb. 21, 2017
U.S. Justice Department, 1934. Appendix D -- Grounds For Judicial Deportation
Reuters, Mexican 'DREAMer' nabbed in immigrant crackdown, Feb. 15, 2017
Trump emphasizes deporting criminals
Anecdotes about undocumented immigrants who committed heinous crimes pervaded Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Trump promised that anyone living in the United States illegally would be subject to removal, with convicted criminals getting the highest priority for deportation.
"A Trump administration will stop illegal immigration, deport all criminal aliens, and save American lives," Trump said at a Nov. 2, 2016, rally in Miami.
WHY HE'S PROMISING IT
Trump continuously asserted that undocumented immigrants are an outsized source of criminal activity in the United States. There is no evidence, though, that immigrants commit crimes at higher rates than native-born citizens.
As of July 2015, there are approximately 180,000 noncitizens with criminal records living in the United States, despite a government order for their removal.
WHAT'S STANDING IN HIS WAY
As president, Trump could use his executive authority to revise President Barack Obama's deportation priorities or start from scratch.
Prioritizing criminals for deportation has been Obama's policy for the past few years, as well. More than 2 million people have been deported during the Obama administration.
Some of Trump's proposals would require congressional approval and funding.
For example, Trump wants Congress to pass Kate's Law, which would establish mandatory minimum sentences for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the United States after having been convicted of certain serious crimes.The measure is named for Kate Steinle, a woman killed by an undocumented immigrant who had been deported multiple times.
He also wants to triple the number of deportation officers within Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
And he proposes bringing back the Secure Communities program, which Obama discontinued in 2014. Under the program, state and local law enforcement agencies shared information with the federal government to help them identify undocumented immigrants for deportation.
HOW MUCH IT WOULD COST
These policies to prioritize removing criminal undocumented immigrants could cost several billion dollars over five years, according to a Washington Post analysis. Tripling ICE officers could cost about $11 billion, and reviving Secure Communities and passing Kate's Law could cost $1 billion each.
If Trump keeps with his broader promise to remove all undocumented immigrants, regardless of criminal record, experts say that could have a strong negative impact on the economy as a whole. The country would lose millions of laborers, and it could cost taxpayers $400 billion, according to conservative think tank American Action Forum.