Differences between the Obama and Trump administrations' policies on undocumented workers

Malcolm Fuller
February 26, 2017

Kelly signed a pair of memos that move forward with two of Trump's executive orders regarding immigration, and give the federal government authorization to expand detention and prioritize deportation for a larger group of undocumented immigrants living in the USA, according to Vox. Taken together, the rules amount to a stricter interpretation of existing laws, and the expansion of others.

The Department of Homeland Security released a pair of memos on Tuesday, laying out how it intends to implement President Donald Trump's executive orders on the enforcement of domestic immigration. Together, they constitute a radical change to USA immigration policy, laying the groundwork for widespread mass deportations by expanding the latitude given to federal immigration agents, galvanizing local law enforcement officers to participate in the effort, and broadening the scope of the definition of "removable alien".

The previous guidance, under the Barack Obama administration, generally did not target immigrants whose only violation was being in the country illegally. A diversity visa lottery sets aside 40,000 green cards each year to people in countries without large immigrant populations in the United States.

Javier Valdes, executive director of Make the Road New York, an organization focused on immigrant families, said that in recent days his group had received panicked calls from members who saw police officers in the street and mistook them for immigration agents.

He said apprehensions on the southern US border had seen an additional surge of 10,000 to 15,000 per month from 2015 to 2016. Among the 41 taken into custody in Queens and the greater NY area were rapists, child rapists, gang members, drug dealers, robbers and more.

For one, the memos ask for an infusion of 10,000 new federal immigration officers. They create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE, to establish a link between ICE and victims of crimes committed by immigrants.

It's unclear how many people could be deported immediately under Trump's plan.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats vowed scrutiny and resistance.

Xenophobia: Why Nigerians may attack South African companies in Nigeria - Fani-Kayode
Official government figures said the number of immigrants in South Africa has declined in recent years. In Congo we are not treating South Africans the way South Africans are treating us.

"Let me be very, very clear: There will be no - repeat no - mass deportations", Kelly said at a joint news conference. "I will not skimp on the training and the standards".

There is probably no other area in U.S. law in which a law enforcement officer can make such a life-or-death determination without the person affected by that decision having legal representation and oversight by courts.

The Kelly memo, on the other hand, "Talks about arrest, not just convictions, and doesn't really seem to limit the possible removals to those convicted of serious crimes or those arrested for serious crimes", Johnson said.

One example involves broader use of a program that fast-tracks deportations.

- The guidelines also expand expedited removals, individuals who can be removed without appearing before an immigration judge.

Some immigration advocates, scrambling for silver linings, noted that the new directives don't mention any changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The church is preparing to act as a physical sanctuary, if necessary, for undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation, something it already did once back in 2012.

Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon.

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