Americans wanted their immigration laws enforced and President Trump is obliging them.
Last week, draft memos were leaked that outlined how to handle illegals caught at the border. The final version of the policy covers illegals in the interior of the U.S., giving agents broad latitude to detain those suspected of being in the country illegally.
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly officially ordered federal agents this week to begin arresting and deporting more illegal immigrants, releasing them from the handcuffs the Obama administration had imposed, and making headway on one of President Trump’s chief campaign promises.
While young adult illegal immigrant “Dreamers” are still exempted, agents were told there are no longer any other special classes of people that should be considered off limits for deportation.
Those caught at the border are to be swiftly shipped back, Mr. Kelly said, and he freed agents to target a broader universe of illegal immigrants for deportation from within the interior of the U.S. The secretary said agents are still to give priority to those with criminal rap sheets, but are free to use discretion — taken away from them in the Obama years — to detain anyone they believe to be in the country illegally.
“It is not intended to produce mass roundups,” a Homeland Security official said, briefing reporters on two new memos Mr. Kelly signed Monday.
The memos set the groundwork for building a wall and call for hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and 500 more officers for the Air and Marine operations at Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Funding those priorities will depend on Congress.
Secretary Kelly also said local police who want to help enforce immigration laws will be welcomed, rather than rebuffed, as they were under the Obama administration.
Drafts of the memos had leaked in recent days, sparking feverish outcry from immigrant-rights groups who said they were a major step back in respecting illegal immigrants.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats vowed scrutiny and resistance.
“We need an immediate public examination in Congress of these heavy-handed, anti-family policies,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. “The Senate should also pass the bill I’ve sponsored to repeal the mass deportation order. The Republican-controlled Congress has an urgent responsibility to do its constitutional duty and act as an independent check on President Trump.”
The two memos are watered down slightly compared to draft versions that leaked last week. Rather than being instructed they “should” arrest most illegal immigrants, as they were in an earlier version, agents are now told they “may” arrest anyone they deem a priority.
DHS stressed that nothing was going to change immediately. The agencies have to figure out how to turn these policies into action without running afoul of laws already on the books. For instance, local police are limited in who they can stop on suspicion of being in the country illegally. Also, if an illegal at the border asks for asylum, it isn’t clear under what circumstances he can be sent back across the border to wait for a hearing.
But that will be worked out by executive branch lawyers at DoJ and in the immigration agencies.
Perhaps the most breathtaking element in these new guidelines is that illegals captured at the border will no longer be released into the U.S. to await a hearing before an immigration judge. Most will be turned around and sent back to Mexico. With the increased monitoring and surveillance at the border, the number of illegals being able to settle in the interior of the U.S. will be drastically reduced.
As far as those illegals who are here already, expect a deluge of stories about illegals here for many years being torn apart from their families and sent back to their countries of origin. There are no doubt many cases of illegals who have built a life in the U.S., paid their taxes, and contributed positively to the community. Should an exception be carved out for some illegals? Inflexibility in the law — especially when the law broken is a misdemeanor — is not justice. The goal of this new immigration policy should be to protect our borders, not ruin the lives of people who are otherwise law abiding and a solid plus to the communities in which they live.
But there are millions of illegal aliens in the U.S. who exist on the margins of society, pay no taxes, take advantage of social welfare programs, and in hundreds of thousands of cases, engage in criminal conduct. They should be the first to go and that’s where the administration should concentrate its initial efforts.