The Trump administration on Tuesday issued stringent new guidelines for vastly bolstering the nation’s border security, expanding immigration detention and prioritizing many more people for deportation.
Contained in a pair of memos signed by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the guidelines are meant to implement President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive orders for cracking down on illegal immigration. Those orders have drawn a mixture of applause and scorn in Georgia, which is home to an estimated 375,000 unauthorized immigrants, many of whom have close relatives who are U.S. citizens.
In addition to beginning the process of hiring 15,000 immigration enforcement and Border Patrol officials and finding more detention space, Kelly’s guidelines significantly increase the government’s targets for deportation. The focus will now be widened to include not only people with criminal convictions but those whose charges have not yet been resolved and others who “have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense.” People caught engaging in fraud or abusing public benefits programs could also face deportation.
Further, the guidelines expand the use of “expedited removal” proceedings in which people are immediately deported. Now limited to people who have been in the country for no more than 14 days and who have been apprehended within 100 miles of the border, the process could now be applied to those who have been here for up to two years and who are arrested anywhere in the U.S.
In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, DHS officials said they were seeking to carry out laws already enacted by Congress. They could not immediately say how much it would cost to hire the additional officers or identify where the money would come from.
Meanwhile, they stressed the new guidelines are not intended to lead to “mass deportations” and that some of the directives for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not take effect immediately, adding they need to publish some wording in the Federal Register. They also sought to prevent what they called a “sense of panic.”
“There are obvious practical limitations to what the department can and can’t do,” a DHS official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The Department of Homeland Security does not have the personnel, time or resources to go around in communities and round up people, family members and other such things.”
But several immigration attorneys based in Georgia said they do not see the new directives as anything but an attempt to dramatically ramp up deportations. Joseph Rosen, an immigration attorney and an adjunct instructor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, said Trump’s immigration policies have kept him busy and his clients on edge.
“I have about four attorneys working for me and about five paralegals and we are all swamped,” he said. “All of us are already being inundated now with individuals who are being arrested and being held for ICE for extremely minor offenses.”
Rosen added the Trump administration’s policies could have unintended consequences for Georgia’s economy and its families.
“I think you are going to begin to see foreclosures of homes when breadwinners are sent out of the country,” he said. “I believe you will see an impact on children. And you are going to begin to see in a number of the industries — where hardworking undocumented (people) have traditionally been — a severe labor shortage.”
The new memos also immediately restore the Secure Communities program, which works by comparing detainees’ fingerprints against immigration records in federal databases. The Obama administration canceled it.
The guidelines also seek to expand the 287(g) program, which authorizes local law enforcement authorities to help enforce federal immigration laws. Authorities from 32 law enforcement agencies in 16 states are now participating in the program, including officials in four Georgia counties. DHS officials call the program a “force multiplier.”
Critics like Arturo Corso say it is a costly program that ensnares low-level offenders with U.S. citizen children and hinders cooperation between immigrants and local authorities. He works as an immigration attorney in Hall County, which participates in the 287(g) program. Many of his clients have been affected by it.
If the program is expanded to other counties, Corso said, “what they are going to find out is what we found out already in Hall County the hard way, which is we had massive economic harm. Housing prices went down. People were leaving the community.”
“If they don’t think about the long-term consequences of their actions, they are going to feel it in their pocketbooks,” he said. “Maybe not immediately, but maybe a year from now. And they are going to say, ‘Oh, my God. What have we done?’”
Hall Deputy Stephen Wilbanks said the manpower his agency devotes to the program is “minimal.” Five employees from his agency are assigned to it, he said, and ICE determines whether to seek to deport people after they are flagged in the county jail.
“The 287(g) program implemented in Hall County is simply a screening tool for people who break the law,” Wilbanks said. “It give us the opportunity to assist in taking some potentially dangerous people off the street and turning them over to ICE. And we are talking about possible gang members and people of that nature. It gives law enforcement an additional tool in the toolbox to deal with those situations.”