On February 20, 2017, Secretary John Kelly of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), issued two immigration memos entitled, “Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies” and “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest.” Under the new guidelines, Federal authorities will have increased power to detain and deport illegal immigrants living in the United States.
The memo regarding border security outlines an implementation plan for President Trump’s January 25, 2017 Executive Order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” The aim of the memo is to “stem illegal immigration and facilitate the detection, apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens who have no lawful basis to enter or remain in the United States.” This new policy lays out a pathway for the massive expansion of detention by requiring DHS to detain any immigrants it apprehends, including those people with no criminal convictions. The guidance also calls for the immediate hiring of 5,000 additional border patrol agents and other personnel to “ensure operational control of the border.” In addition, the memo directs immediate construction of the Southern border wall; and directs DHS personnel to develop guidance and training for all employees on how to deal with unaccompanied alien minors.
The memo regarding enforcement outlines an implementation plan for President Trump’s January 25, 2017 Executive Order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The memo states that effective immediately, DHS shall execute U.S. immigration laws against “all removable aliens” and will no longer “exempt class or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” The guidance directs DHS personnel to make full use of all statutory authority to “remove aliens expeditiously,” which means they will likely bypass court proceedings. The memo also rescinds previous guidance on prosecutorial discretion and directs DHS personnel to arrest, apprehend, and initiate enforcement actions against any alien the “immigration officer has probable cause to believe” has violated immigration laws. In addition, the memo calls for the hiring of 10,000 additional ICE agents and officers.
These memos do not overturn President Obama’s previous executive action on deferred action for childhood arrivals.