On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security released policies meant to stringently enforce existing immigration laws across the US. Most of these laws existed under the former Obama administration, but were mainly applicable to illegal immigrants found guilty of serious crimes, and deported.
However, the enforcement of the policies included in memos issued by the DHS applies to illegal immigrants who are liable to be detained, convicted and deported for any criminal offense.
Plans have also been announced by DHS to hire 10,000 new immigration and customs agents, and expand the number of detention facilities nationwide. This is indicative of the federal government’s harsh plans against illegal immigrants.
Also indicative of the harsh enforcement measures, the DHS policy will expand to a wider swath of immigrants. Under the Obama administration immediate deportation was applied to immigrants who committed a criminal offense within 14 days of being in the US. The measures to be enforced expands to immigrants in the US for up to 2 years and, unlike the Obama administration which applied the immediate deportation order to people within 100 miles of the border, immediate deportation now applies to illegal immigrants located anywhere in the 50 states.
Another policy that was not the focus of the Obama administration which the DHS directive now enforces is the 287g program. Under this program, US immigration officials, including ICE and agent that patrol the US borders, can utilize the services of local law enforcement officers to help detain immigrants.
According to Miami immigration attorney, Rhonda Bariffe, an affiliate of the Florida Immigration Coalition this measure could have serious implications for municipalities that serve as sanctuary cities. “This is bound to cause conflicts between declared sanctuary cities and federal immigration officials.”
Last year when the Florida Legislature tabled legislation to have local law enforcement assist in detaining and placing immigrants into deportation procedures this was soundly defeated. The proposed legislation also met with strong opposition from most of the residents of South Florida.
Bariffe also believes the proposed enforcement of the existing immigration measures will have “a painful impact on South Florida since the region has one of the largest migrant community in America.” She said she’s among several immigration advocates who are “very concerned” what laws will be interpreted as criminally offenses likely to result in immigrants being detained and processed for deportation. “There are a wide variety of laws. Which of these laws if broken could lead to deportation?”
Following the release of the DHS memos on Tuesday, DHS representatives on a conference call with the media, indicated the department did not plan “on mass deportations.” The enforcement of the laws will be a phased process because of logistical and legal procedures to be addressed before some measures can be implemented.
An upside in Tuesdays announcements is that the measures to be enforced does not directly affect DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which through executive order President Obama created legalizing the children of undocumented immigrants born in the US, or brought to the US as infants.
However, Bariffe said the immigration laws to be enforced would still apply to DACA recipients “if they are determined to have broken criminal laws.”