Washington (CNN) – The Department of Homeland Security yesterday (Feb. 22) laid out the Trump administration’s plans for aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, including a potentially massive expansion of the number of people detained and deported.
But the Trump administration also emphasizes that it is leaving intact the DACA program – President Barack Obama’s protections for so-called DREAMers – even if the new rules chip away at protections for undocumented migrants overall.
DHS officials told reporters yesterday that while the guidance memos expand the federal government’s ability to empower state and local law enforcement agencies to perform the functions of immigration officers, no National Guard troops will be deployed to round up immigrants in the US.
The fundamental shift in US policy will likely continue to provoke fear in immigrant communities of a vast expansion of the government’s use of its enforcement powers to potentially deport undocumented immigrants who have lived in their communities for years, and may have family members who are legal US residents or citizens.
DHS officials say the policies mostly enforce existing law and won’t lead to an immediate massive round-ups of undocumented immigrants.
“We’re not going to start changing this today, it’s not going to start happening tomorrow,” the official said of an expansion of who is eligible for expedited deportation. “You will not see folks rounded up or anything of the sort.”
The memos, which were obtained and reported on by CNN over the weekend, serve to expand upon the orders, which are unrelated to the controversial travel ban currently tied up in the courts and being re-written by the White House.
The guidance explains how the administration plans to put in place the goals dictated in Trump’s executive orders, including vastly increasing the resources to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, building a wall along the southern border and taking a hard-line position on undocumented immigrants.
DHS officials repeatedly tried to emphasize that the policies are not an expansion of existing law.
“We’re just simply trying to execute what Congress and the President has asked us to do,” an official said. “We’re going to do so professionally (and) humanely … but we are going to execute the laws of the United States.”
Language was included explicitly saying Obama’s executive orders protecting young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children and undocumented parents of US citizens would be an exception to a mandate that “the Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
A DHS official briefing reporters on the orders made note from the top that the policies would not be affected.
“No. 1: None of this affects DACA. No. 2, none of this affects DAPA/expanded DACA,” the official said, adding that the latter policy is currently being blocked by the courts either way.
The guidance is still unclear in many respects. It rescinds Obama executive orders besides the deferred action for children and parents of citizens – but notes that only “to the extent of the conflict” with new guidance, meaning some policies will remain in place.
For example, a fact sheet released by the department says that rules keeping churches and schools as off-limits from enforcement actions remain in operation.
Asked about the confusion over which policies do and do not remain in place, an official said, “There are a lot of internal policies and memoranda and procedures that have to be worked out individually and analyzed by the legal departments. … That’s a very deliberate project that will be conducted.”
But the official emphasized the “sensitive locations” policy remains in place, and a second official said the rescinding of previous guidance largely applies for now to policy about prosecutorial discretion.
Through the memos, Kelly expands the government’s immigration enforcement by instructing agencies to implement unused parts of existing law and by clarifying standards for certain protections, which add up to having sweeping implications for the processing of undocumented immigrants in the US.
Top: US President Donald Trump smiles at a recent press conference. Photo: CNN
SOURCE: CNN’s Tal Kopan