SEATTLE — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has laid out President Donald Trump’s new plans for aggressive enforcement of immigration laws and expanded deportations.
Under the Trump Administration, any immigrant who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or minor offenses — or simply having crossed the border illegally.
The new memos make clear immigration agents now have broader discretion to decide who to round up.
It would also end so-called “catch and release” where people caught for being in the U.S. unlawfully are released while they wait to go before an immigration judge. Instead, the memos call for more people to receive expedited removal.
The Trump administration is calling for sweeping changes to the immigrant enforcement policies we’ve seen under the last four presidents.
One of the key differences with the old policy and the new one has to do with time. Under President Barack Obama, quick deportations only happened if an undocumented immigrant was found within 100 miles of the border and they were in the U.S. for less than two weeks. But under Trump’s guidelines, any undocumented immigrant who can’t prove they’ve been in the U.S. for two consecutive years, could be subject to quick deportation.
Border agents often round up undocumented immigrants along the border. You’ve seen the images before, but more and more immigrants could be taken from communities much closer to you. It could include undocumented and legal immigrants, too.
“These scare tactics, creating a ‘boogie man’ again, it just drives people underground. It doesn’t resolve anything. It doesn’t make the community safer,” said Northwest Immigration Rights Project attorney Mozhdeh Oskouian.
Under the new policy, a traffic violation could be enough to get someone deported. That sent shockwaves through Seattle immigrant rights groups. The other great fear is deportation solely based on suspicion.
“Having immigrants who one immigration officer believes might be a risk to public safety and, based on that one immigration officer, to have this person detained and maybe permanently removed from this country, this is unheard of,” said Oskouian.
There is support for the policy shift from at least one group: NumbersUSA.
“The world has been told, if you illegally cross the border or if you come here on a tourist visa and you overstay your visa (and you think) you can stay as long as you don’t commit a crime, it’s not true anymore,” said NumbersUSA Executive Director Roy Beck.
What happens if this new policy runs into a legal challenge -- like the president’s travel ban did? At a panel discussion at the University of Washington Tuesday night, professors, an immigration attorney, and Democratic Congressman Adam Smith shared their views. They say if the policy were to run into trouble in the courts, the issue may fall to Congress, where Smith says it would be an uphill battle.
“It’s possible that Republicans in Congress would take this and try to pass it. It would be difficult, but it’s distinctly possible,” said Smith.
Here’s a topic that’s been debated on our Q13 Fox Facebook page. Do undocumented or illegal immigrants have rights? According to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, all immigrants, whether they’re undocumented or have legal paperwork to be in the U.S., do have rights. Attorneys there say it’s in the Constitution under due process.