SEATTLE — The Northwest Immigrants Rights Project in Seattle said it received hundreds of calls Tuesday morning from concerned people after President Trump’s directive to expand deportations of undocumented immigrants.
“That theoretically catches millions of immigrants living among us,” said Mozhdeh Oskouian, an attorney for NIRP.
The organization noted that undocumented immigrants still have the right to a private attorney if they get picked up by federal agents. Even after detention, attorneys say, undocumented immigrants don’t have to answer questions or sign any documents.
President Donald Trump’s administration says it is not going for mass roundups or raids. Yet the new orders now give ICE agents the discretion to go after undocumented immigrants who have not committed a crime. Those just charged with an offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority.
“It’s a huge expansion from the last four presidents, because the last four presidents didn’t follow the law,” Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, said.
NumbersUSA, a group pushing for immigration reform, says the president is not creating new laws, only following what Congress put in place.
“Sanctuary cities will see more disruptive enforcement than the cities that cooperate,” Beck said.
Seattle has declared itself a sanctuary city. Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from any sanctuary city.
Trump’s orders are also calling on quick deportations of any undocumented immigrants across the country; anyone who cannot prove they have been in the U.S. for two consecutive years could be put into deportation proceedings.
Under President Barack Obama, quick deportations only happened if an undocumented immigrant was taken in 100 miles from the border and if they were in the U.S. for 14 days or less.
Department of Homeland Security plans to hire 10,000 ICE officers and 5,000 more Border Patrol agents to enforce the law, although Congress will have to find and approve money to hire 15,000 more federal employees.
“They can triple their force, they can quadruple their force, but to do it humanely it’s not realistic,” Oskouian said.
But NumbersUSA says the president is sending a necessary message.
“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,” Beck said.
The deportation expansion also targets people who overstay their visas.
According to a new Homeland Security report, the largest number of tourists who overstay their visas are from Canada and Mexico.
In 2015, there were nearly 100,000 overstay'ers from Canada and 45,000 from Mexico.
Those numbers do not reflect the people who walked or drove across the borders.
Immigrants rights groups say the other side is going at reform the wrong way.
“They are not going to go away, they will just go into hiding,” Oskouian said.
Trump has emphasized that he will leave the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program alone. The program gives young undocumented immigrants the legal right to work and go to school.
There is an estimated 750,000 DACA recipients across the U.S.