For weeks, amidst news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had detained, removed and targeted undocumented immigrants previously considered low priority for deportation, advocates feared that we were entering an era of heightened danger for the undocumented community. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security released two memos that laid out the sweeping immigration guidelines that will inform its actions. The DHS will widen its scope by arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants – even if they haven’t committed serious crimes. As the New York Times reports the memo calls for expediting the deportation process, hiring 10,000 new ICE agents, turning police officers into immigration agents, and building additional detention facilities.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the memos outlined that “the No. 1 priority is that people who pose a threat to our country are immediately dealt with.” This policy already existed under President Barack Obama’s administration. Obama – known as the deporter-in-chief – deported 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, more than any other president, during his tenure. DHS’ new procedures vastly expand who is a target for deportation.
As our immigration system becomes increasingly vindictive, what goes on at the border will also change. During the Obama administration, officials released people who crossed the border seeking asylum and gave them a court date hearing.
Though most requests end in rejection, by then, it’d be more difficult to locate these individuals, the Boston Globe notes. The so-called catch-and-release program will come to an end after the creation of added detention facilities. Alternatively, immigration agents may deport immigrants to Mexico to wait out the immigration process, even if they’re not originally from the country.
Border Patrol agents have been anxiously awaiting a president like Trump, an unnamed officer told the New Yorker. “They love Trump’s straight-up, no-nonsense talk,” the Border Patrol agent said of his colleagues. “It’s how the guys want to talk. Anything Trump does, they’re going to defend him at all costs.” With morale at an all-time high, immigration agents are being given carte-blanche to go after the undocumented community. Between 2005 and 2012, more than 2,000 CBP agents were arrested on misconduct charges. Now, they might feel more empowered.
The NYT notes that immigration lawyers and advocates remain hopeful that the courts can mitigate the affect of these policies. Following Trump trying to enact a Muslim ban – which restricted immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries but appeared to also affect other groups – judges challenged him. Recently, a Ninth Circuit appellate court ruled against Trump’s executive order, citing his previous statements urging for a Muslim ban. (Trump’s team is now working on a new order targeting Muslims.)
In the meantime, immigration activists will continue working to educate and protect the immigrant community. As fear and panic set in, here are a few ways immigration activists will fight in the short and long term: