Trump administration announces wide-ranging immigration guidelines

IMAGE: Nancy Wiechec

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In two memos published Feb.
20, the Department of Homeland Security outlined guidelines that White House
officials said would enhance enforcement of immigration laws inside the country
as well as prevent further unauthorized immigration into the U.S.

In a Feb. 21 news briefing, White House press
secretary Sean Spicer said the guidelines include hiring more border agents,
construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, and hiring more personnel to
“repatriate illegal immigrants swiftly.”

The memos by Department of Homeland Security
Secretary John F. Kelly also called for state and local agencies to
“assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law” and for hiring
“additional border patrol agents, as well as “500 Air and Marine
Agents/Officers.” The cost of implementing such programs, whether there’s
enough funding and how Congress will be involved, was not discussed.

While there have been two arrests under the new
administration involving recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
program, known as DACA, the policy was not mentioned in the new guidelines. The
program grants a reprieve from deportation and allows a work permit for those
who were brought as minors to the U.S. without legal permission.

In the news briefing, Spicer said the guidelines
were meant to prioritize for deportation anyone who was a criminal or posed a
threat in some form, but he also said “laws are laws” and that anyone
in the country who is here without permission is subject to removal at any

In a Feb. 23 statement, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of
Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, said that
while public safety is important, the memos detailing the new guidelines “contain
a number of provisions that, if implemented as written, will harm public safety
rather than enhance it.” Bishop Vasquez added that it will break down “the
trust that currently exists between many police departments and immigrant
communities, and sow great fear in those communities,” if local enforcement is
used to enforce federal immigration laws.

The memos also addressed the issue of
unaccompanied minors who cross the border, fleeing violence in their home
countries or seeking reunification with family in the U.S. They said that
“regardless of the desire of family reunification,” smuggling or
trafficking is “intolerable” and said “exploitation of that
policy led to abuses by many of the parents and legal guardians.”

Bishop Vasquez said the policies in the
memos “will needlessly separate families, upend peaceful communities, endanger
the lives and safety of the most vulnerable among us” and urged the Trump administration
to “reconsider the approach” expressed in the Feb. 20 memos but also “reconsider
the approach it has taken in a number of executive orders and actions issued
over the last month. Together, these have placed already vulnerable immigrants
among us in an even greater state of vulnerability.”

Department of Homeland Security workers, the
memo also said, should prioritize for deportation “removable aliens”
who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”

Reports from major outlets such as The New York
Times and The Washington Post said the administration in a conference call said
it was seeking to calm fears among immigrant communities by saying only those
who “pose a threat or have committed a crime” need to worry about
being priorities. But during the news briefing, when asked about a woman who
was deported despite having no major criminal convictions, Spicer said he
wouldn’t comment on specific cases.

After drafts of memos leaked out in mid-February
proposing use of the National Guard in immigration operations, The Associated
Press reported that the New Mexico’s Catholic bishops called the ideas in the
memos “a declaration of some form of war.” AP provided documents to
back up the claim but the White House denied it and the final guidelines made
no mention of the National Guard.

Catholic leaders have been urging dignity and
respect for migrants and have acknowledged the rampant fear among communities.

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men Feb. 21
issued a statement denouncing the recent arrest by immigration officials of six
men exiting a hypothermia shelter at Rising Hope Mission Church in Alexandria,
Virginia, saying it violated Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy
“not to conduct enforcement actions at or near ‘sensitive locations’ like
houses of worship.”

The conference said it invited “others to
join us in denouncing these deportation efforts that harm the ‘least of our
brothers and sisters.’ We especially denounce the irreverence, disrespect and
violation of sensitive locations, such as houses of worship and ministry which
belong to God and the erosion of our Constitutional right to be free from
religious oppression by our government.”

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.


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