White House: Mass deportation not goal of immigration memos despite fears among many

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New memos unveiled by the Trump administration Tuesday outline a sweeping plan to detain and deport certain undocumented immigrants as well as add more than 15,000 immigration, border patrol and customs agents, but White House press secretary Sean Spicer said mass deportation is not the goal.

One of the memos -- signed by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly -- says that the agency will "no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement" with certain exceptions including children.

That memo calls President Obama's prioritization of deporting certain undocumented immigrants "failed" and says that "Department personnel may initiate enforcement actions against removable aliens encountered during the performance of their duties."

The memos, released publicly this morning, offer the clearest picture yet of how the Trump administration plans to tackle the issue of undocumented immigration, including calling for enlistment of local law enforcement to help detain and remove unauthorized individuals, construction of the promised border wall and expansion of detention facilities at the southern border.

In an exchange with ABC News' Cecilia Vega, Spicer insisted today that the priority would be placed on those who Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials deem a threat or have committed crimes.

"The message from this White House and the DHS is that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go and we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs. That is what the priority is," he said.

"What the order sets out today is ensures that the million or so people that have been adjudicated already, that ICE prioritizes creates a system of prioritization and makes sure that we walk through that system in a way that protects the country."

Spicer went on to say that by removing protocols prioritizing certain immigrants for removal that were in place during the Obama administration, "the president wanted to take the shackles off" law enforcement and immigration officials.

"The INA 287(g) Program has been a highly successful force multiplier that allows a qualified state or local law enforcement officer to be designated as an "immigration officer" for purposes of enforcing federal immigration law," one of the memos says.

One of the memos states that "detention ... is the most efficient means by which to enforce the immigration laws at our borders" as opposed to the "catch-and-release" policies of the past.

"Detention also prevents such aliens from committing crimes while at large in the United States, ensures that aliens will appear for their removal proceedings, and substantially increases the likelihood that aliens lawfully ordered removed will be removed," the memo says.

That memo calls for the Director of ICE and the Commissioner of CBP to "take all necessary action and allocate all available resources to expand their detention capabilities and capacities at or near the border with Mexico to the greatest extent practicable" and tasks the border patrol with expanding short-term detention facilities and ICE with "all other detention capabilities."

The plans stated in the memos have raised concern among immigrants' rights and civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

"These memos confirm that the Trump administration is willing to trample on due process, human decency, the well-being of our communities and even protections for vulnerable children in pursuit of a hyperaggressive mass deportation policy," Omar Jadwat, the director of the ACLU's immigrants' rights project, said in a statement.

The memos address Trump's planned construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, stating that the administration has all the authority it needs to get started and that the DHS will "immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall, including the attendant lighting, technology (including sensors), as well as patrol and access roads, along the land border with Mexico."

On a call with reporters this morning, DHS officials emphasized that the memos have no impact on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and the memos make no mention of using any National Guard troops for enforcement.

Kelly has directed ICE to hire 10,000 officers and agents and Customs and Border Patrol to hire 5,000 additional border patrol agents and 500 air and marine agents and officers.

The hiring of 5,000 new border patrol agents was something that Trump touted during the presidential campaign as part of his plan to fight illegal immigration.

Additionally, the memos order the establishment of an office for victims of immigration crime, though few details have been revealed.

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