The Department of Homeland Security issued two memos yesterday giving federal immigration agents wide latitude to arrest, detain and deport undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants with criminal records. The memos create a blueprint for how to enact executive orders from President Trump dealing with interior enforcement and border security, reports Politico. Serious criminals will still be a top target for immigration officers. The priorities are being greatly expanded to include undocumented immigrants charged with crimes or those who have committed acts that could constitute a chargeable offense. DHS stresses that all “removable aliens” could be subject to immigration enforcement under the new guidelines. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute says that more than half of an estimated 1.9 million deportable immigrants with criminal records are in the U.S. lawfully, using green cards or some other type of visa.
The new guidance prioritizes the arrest of deportable immigrants who have “abused” public benefits, misrepresented themselves, or “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.” The memo gives few specifics on how each criteria will be determined. Driving without a license, a frequent offense for undocumented immigrants, could make an individual “subject to … removal from the United States.” A DHS official said, “We have limited resources and we will, to the extent that we absolutely can, focus on cartel members, gang members, folks who committed serious crimes … the fact that you’re not a priority does not exempt you from the potential of enforcement.” The official added, “Realistically speaking, there are obvious limits to what we can and can’t do on a daily basis.” The official pushed back against the idea that the new policies would allow for mass deportations. The memos say DHS will hire 10,000 new immigration officers.