On January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump issued two Executive Orders (EO) that will affect immigration. The first EO involves border security and calls for increased immigration enforcement, more deportations, and a promise to build a Southern wall along the U.S./Mexico border. As promised during his campaign, Trump has stated that Mexico will pay for the wall. This EO also instructs the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish detention facilities near the border and staff them with asylum officers and immigration judges. The order directs the DHS Secretary to “allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control or establish contracts to construct, operate or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.” In addition, the EO ends the policy commonly known as “catch and release.” This practice gave Border Patrol agents discretion when they caught an immigrant on the border without papers. They could deport immigrants immediately, or they could release them with the opportunity to show up to an asylum interview or court date, they could use an ankle bracelet or other monitoring system to keep track of them before a court date, or they could keep them in detention. The Trump EO changes that and now only allows immigrants to either be deported immediately or detained. The EO also notes that unaccompanied children detained at the border receive care and are sent back to their home nations.
The second EO is entitled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” This order targets “sanctuary cities” – cities, states and other jurisdictions that shield undocumented immigrants from federal law enforcement through efforts such as not using municipal funds or resource to enforce national immigration laws. Specifically, the EO states, “the Attorney General and the Secretary, in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with [federal immigration law] are not eligible to receive Federal grants.” This EO also prioritizes removing deportable immigrants who have been convicted of a criminal offense. Based on the definition in the EO, a criminal could include someone who’s been charged with a crime, but not actually convicted. The EO also brings back a program that was ended during the Obama administration, known as “Secure Communities.” This program requires local authorities to share fingerprints and other arrest data to help track down undocumented immigrants.
Both orders seek to increase enforcement in terms of staffing within DHS. The border security order instructed DHS to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, while interior EO seeks an additional 10,000 immigration officers. These actions require approval from Congress since it requires appropriating funds for more agents.