Homeland Security Outlines Tougher Immigration Measures

Donald Trump speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to a "Make America Great Again" rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Florida. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released two memos Tuesday that spell out plans to toughen how the agency handles border security and enforcement of federal immigration laws. The memos detail how the federal government will implement the controversial executive orders President Donald Trump signed in late January that focused on these issues.

"It implements new policies designed to stem illegal immigration and facilitate the detection, apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens who have no lawful basis to enter or remain in the United States," states one of the memos, signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly. "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."

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The new, stricter practices include the deportation of any undocumented immigrant convicted of any criminal offense; holding people caught at the border until their deportation hearings; hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents; and building a border wall.

Immigration advocates and experts reacted strongly to the memos and the new enforcement landscape they announce.

"It's pretty ominous," Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, tells Newsweek. He adds that public safety suffers when immigrants fear police: "To me it's relatively clear that the Trump administration is trying to make citizens afraid of immigrants and make immigrants afraid of law enforcement. The common denominator is the administration is trying to instill fear."

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks to lower immigration to the U.S., had the opposite reaction. She called the memos "a welcome move" and said they were a reversal from the Obama administration. "It's clear the Trump administration is going to use all the tools available to it in the law, many of which were neglected in the past, in order to address the problem of illegal immigration," Vaughan tells Newsweek . "This is a restoration of enforcement as normal, and as Congress intended it and as the public expects."

A fact sheet DHS released Tuesday to explain the memos listed 16 "actions" the agency will put into place. Under one action titled "Enforcing the law," the sheet reads, "With extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States."

Another action, which directs the expansion of "detention capabilities and capacities at or near the border," sounds like it could spark a building boom.

The memo also encourages the expansion of the 287(g) program, which deputizes local sheriffs and police and correction officers as federal immigration agents, and calls the federal program "a force multiplier."

Make the Road New York, an immigration advocacy group based in Brooklyn, criticized the memos soon after their release. "These memos confirm what we've long feared—that General Kelly is an eager accomplice to President Trump's anti-immigrant crusade. The DHS plans signal a morally bankrupt effort to tear immigrants from their families without due process," its statement reads. "Immigrant communities and our allies will resist these policies. We are here to stay."