United States President Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday announced a sweeping rewrite of immigration reinforcement policies, which could entail targeting millions of people living in the country illegally, including people arrested for traffic violations.
According to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly, any immigrant who is in the United States illegally and is charged or convicted of committing any offence, or even suspected of a crime, will now be a priority for the enforcement. This directive could also include people arrested for minor offence like shoplifting.
The memos of Trump administration replace the less sweeping guidance which focused on those immigrants who have been convicted for serious crimes or are considered a threat to national security, the Associated Press reported. The previous guidance, under the Barack Obama administration, generally did not target immigrants whose only violation was being in the country illegally. These immigrants were typically segregated into two categories, ones who crossed the border with permit and others who overstayed their visas in the country.
Overstaying a visa is a civil offence and those immigrants who do overstay are not included in the priority list specifically, however, in Trump's memos, the offenders are more likely to face deportations than they did earlier. The memo also states it clear that those immigrants who cross the borders illegally will be included in the enforcement priorities list.
Trump, during his presidential campaign, had promised stricter enforcement policies and this move is the latest in the efforts by the President to follow up on his vows. He has also promised to build a wall along the southern borders of Mexico and the United States to keep illegal immigrants at bay. The latest enforcement memos also include calls for Homeland Security to start planning for the costs and construction of the controversial border wall.
Last month, Trump had signed an executive order which barred refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries to enter the United States. His refugee travel ban faced widespread criticism and protests across the country and has now been temporarily stayed by a federal court after the Washington state filed a lawsuit asking the ban to be revoked.
The US president's travel ban, which resulted in country-wide protests, applies to migrants, refugees and US legal residents — Green Card holders — from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen. There is an indefinite ban on the arrival of Syrian refugees. Trump cited 'terrorism concerns' as the reason behind the order.