Immigration: Understanding the United States’ New Policies

Under the Obama administration, enforcing immigration policies meant focusing on dangerous criminals and keeping families together, not a hard-lined approach that would deport every undocumented immigrant.  Times have changed, though, and Trump’s executive orders, titled Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements and Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, changes the enforcement practices of our nations’ immigration laws.

Veiled Rule Really Includes All Undocumented Immigrants

immigrationAlthough Obama took a more progressive approach during his first term, deportations dropped during his second term and priority was given to dangerous criminals—not to those immigrants whose only violation was being in the country illegally.  In 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created the Priority Enforcement Program, which focused on deporting undocumented immigrants that posed threats to public safety, national security, and border security.  This program within the DHS has now been terminated because under Trump’s executive order undocumented immigrants that:

  • have been convicted or charged of any criminal offense,
  • have committed a chargeable criminal offense,
  • have engaged in fraud (think visa fraud) or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,
  • have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits,
  • are subject to final order of removal, but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the U.S., or
  • in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security are to be given priority for deportation.

Let’s be clear here.  The policy includes virtually every person in the country that is here illegally.  Under this new policy, any unauthorized immigrant that has committed a chargeable criminal offense is to be deported.  Crossing the border illegally is in and of itself a criminal offense, so all those campaign promises that he only wanted to deport criminals wasn’t entirely true.  The only other way an immigrant could be here illegally is by overstaying a visa.

Department of Homeland Security Memos Shifts Policies Further

Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, released a set of implementation memos that give guidelines on how to enforce Trump’s policies under his executive orders.  According to the DHS, these memos are “designed to answer some frequently asked questions about how the Department will operationally implement the guidance provided by the president’s order”.

In short, the memos expedite deportation, tighten immigration laws for asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors entering the country, could send immigrants awaiting immigration proceedings in the United States back to Mexico, seek to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants, build new detention facilities, strip immigrants of privacy protections, and enlist local police officers to enforce immigration policies.

Here’s a closer look at some of the changes.

  • Although the memos do list specifics about who is to be given priority for deportation in accordance with Trump’s executive order, the memos direct that the DHS will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens. This is contrary to the policies under Obama, who worked to keep illegal immigrants with strong ties to their communities and this country, including those with citizen children, here in the United States.
  • Establishes the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office. This one allows the VOICE office to release information about the offender to victims and their families.  Further, it terminates any and all resources used to advocate on behalf of illegal aliens; all resources are reallocated to the VOICE office.
  • Directs establishment of regulations to collect civil fines and penalties from illegal aliens.
  • Strips Privacy Act protections from any person that is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  • Expanded expedited removal processes for undocumented immigrants that haven’t been here long. Immigration law says undocumented adults captured within 2 years of entering the U.S. can be removed without a hearing.  In the past, DHS policy limited this policy to those captured within 14 days of entering the country, but, even though the memo doesn’t give a specific change of time frame, this will likely no longer be tolerated based on the essence of the memos.
  • Criminalizes those who help unaccompanied children. Any individual who “facilitates the illegal smuggling or trafficking of an alien child into the United States” is subject to deportation and/or prosecution.
  • For those that entered the country through a neighboring territory, the memos authorize their return to that territory where they will wait for the outcome of their removal proceedings. This is true even if that territory isn’t their country of origin.

Although some of the information contained in the memos references already existing laws, the message is clear—violating immigration laws will no longer be tolerated.  Under these policies, the government no long considers violating immigration laws a secondary offense and the memos direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire 10,000 additional officers and agents to implement these new policy changes.

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