Trump’s Immigration Policies Explained - nytimes
With an executive order last month and a pair of Department of Homeland Security memos on Tuesday, the Trump administration has significantly hardened the country’s policies regarding illegal immigration. Here are some of the most significant elements of the new approach:
Who will be deported
In 2014, the Obama administration issued guidelines for deporting unauthorized immigrants that placed the highest priority on gang members, felons and those who posed security threats. A goal was to concentrate limited resources on the most serious cases, but many Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents complained that the priorities tied their hands, taking away their discretion as to whom to pursue.
Under the new directives, the government “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” Immigration agents can now focus on picking up and removing anyone charged with or convicted of any criminal offense, even minor ones, as well as anyone already ordered deported, regardless of whether they have a criminal record.
One unauthorized immigrant in California, Kristina, who did not want her last name used because of fear of deportation, said she was alarmed to learn on Tuesday that she would now be considered a prime target. Kristina has been in the country for 25 years and has been ordered deported, but her removal had been postponed for the last four years by the Obama administration. “We have our whole lives here; our children are citizens,” she said. “Now I don’t know if I can go out, if I should drive.”
But the Obama guidelines “translated into de facto protections” for people with no legal right to live in the United States, said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants. Unless they fell into one of the high-priority categories, Mr. Stein said, “the chance of being deported was virtually zero.”
Under the Obama administration, people caught crossing the border without permission were often released into the United States while their requests for asylum wound through the immigration system, a process that can take years. Most requests are denied, but by then, the immigrant has been living in the United States all that time and may not be easy to find.
The Trump administration has declared an end to the so-called catch and release policy, though it may take awhile to see any significant change. “Catch and release” came about in part because the government had nowhere to hold detainees waiting for immigration decisions. One of the memos released on Tuesday directs officials to expand detention facilities, but it will take time to build centers big enough, or find enough room in jails, to hold the thousands of Mexican and Central American asylum seekers expected to cross the border this year. - Read More