From [HERE] The Trump administration on Tuesday sought to allay growing fears among immigrant communities over wide-ranging new directives to ramp up enforcement against illegal immigrants, insisting the measures are not intended to produce “mass deportations.”
Federal officials cautioned that many of the changes detailed in a pair of memos from Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly will take time to implement because of costs and logistical challenges and that border patrol agents and immigration officers will use their expanded powers with care and discretion.
Yet the official public rollout of Kelly’s directives, first disclosed in media reports over the weekend, was met with outrage from immigrant rights advocates over concerns the new policies will result in widespread abuses as authorities attempt to fulfill President Trump’s goals of tightening border control.
Trump took a hard line against illegal immigration during his campaign, at times suggesting he would seek to create a nationwide “deportation force” to expel as many of the nation’s estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants as possible.
In a conference call with reporters, a senior Department of Homeland Security official moved to avert what he called a “sense of panic” among immigrant communities.
“We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination,” said the official, who was joined on the call by two others, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to answer questions. “This is not intended to produce mass roundups, mass deportations.”
The new guidelines, intended as a road map toward implementing a pair of executive actions Trump signed last month, call for the hiring of thousands of additional enforcement agents, expanding the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, speeding up deportation hearings and enlisting local law enforcement to help make arrests.
The policies represent a sharp break from the final years of the Obama administration and could reverse a sizable reduction in the number of deportations that occurred toward the end of President Barack Obama’s time in office.
After deportations reached a record high of 434,000 in 2013, intense pressure from immigration advocates prompted the Obama administration to implement new guidelines that focused enforcement on hardened criminals. Obama announced in Nov. 2014 that his administration would deport “felons, not families.” Many undocumented immigrants have lived in the country for more than a decade and have family members and children who are U.S. citizens.
The number of people deported in 2015 was just over 333,000, the lowest number since 2007, according to federal data. Statistics for 2016 are not publicly available.
Kelly’s new DHS policies considerably broaden the pool of undocumented immigrants prioritized for removal, including those who have been charged with crimes but not convicted, those who commit acts that constitute a “chargeable criminal offense,” and those who an immigration officer concludes pose “a risk to public safety or national security.”
The Trump administration “is using the specter of crime to create fear … in the American community about immigrants in order to create an opening to advance the indiscriminate persecution of immigrants,” said Clarissa Martínez-de-Castro, deputy vice president at the National Council of La Raza. “This administration is saying, ‘Now, everybody is going to be a priority,’ and the devil may care.
Democrats and human rights groups blasted the administration. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) called the policies “xenophobic” and suggested they could lead to racial profiling of minorities.
“It is irresponsible to treat a hardened criminal the same as an immigrant mother with children for purposes of deportation,” Menendez said in a statement. [MORE]