By Hope Yen and Julie Pace
WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department has drafted sweeping new guidelines aimed at aggressively detaining and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, according to a pair of memoranda signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly.
The memos dated Friday seek to implement President Donald Trump’s broad directive to crack down on illegal immigration. Kelly outlines plans to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand on the priority list for immigrants marked for immediate removal and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests, according to a person briefed on the documents, who confirmed the details to The Associated Press.
“The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” Kelly wrote.
He said apprehensions on the southern U.S. border had seen an additional surge of 10,000 to 15,000 per month from 2015 to 2016.
The memos leave in place one directive from the Obama administration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young people who were brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits. The program has protected about 750,000 immigrants since its inception in 2012. Trump has previously indicated his desire to end the program, but at his press conference last week he indicated that he would “show great heart” toward the program.
The memos were reported first by The Washington Post and other news organizations. A U.S. official familiar with the documents did not dispute the accuracy of the memos signed by Kelly, which were originally scheduled for release Friday before they were postponed for White House review.
A White House official said officials there had raised objections with the documents and were working with DHS to finalize the policy. The official was not authorized to discuss the process publicly and insisted on anonymity.
Under the draft guidelines, Kelly seeks to “expeditiously hire” 10,000 more enforcement agents and 5,000 Border Patrol officers.
Seeking to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along the Mexican border, Kelly also calls on Customs and Border Protection to “immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall, including the attendant lighting, technology (including sensors), as well as patrol and access roads.” He describes the wall as necessary to deter illegal immigration and calls it a “critical component” of Trump’s overall border security strategy.
He says the department will also prioritize for more immediate removal those who have been convicted of a crime; charged with a crime; committed fraud in connection with a matter before a government agency; abused any program related to public benefits; or have not complied with orders to leave the country.
Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the proposed guidelines as a Trump style of immigration enforcement in which “due process, human decency and common sense are treated as inconvenient obstacles on the path to mass deportation.”
“The Trump administration is intent on inflicting cruelty on millions of immigrant families across the country,” she said in a statement.