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Immigration Reform News 2017: DHS Memos Denote Tougher Immigration and Border Policies, Order the Wall Built

U.S. Flag at Mexico Border

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly signed a couple of memos dated Friday, which offered guidelines on the implementation of President Donald Trump's stricter immigration policies. The provisions in the memos describe a hard line stance on undocumented immigrants. The memos are not yet officially issued as of this time.

The memo rescinds many of President Barack Obama's border enforcement measures, including the revived "catch-and-release" policy. Kelly also directs the DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire 10,000 ICE agents as quickly as possible, on top of 5,000 additional Border Patrol officers and 500 Air and Marine Agents.

The new memos do not address any issues related to legal immigration.

Tougher, More Ubiquitous Immigration Law Enforcement

The memo seeks to terminate the Priority Enforcement Program and revive the Secure Communities Program in its place. This would restore the ICE Detainer provision, in which a jail can hold an arrested person for two days beyond the scheduled release date, for the purpose of holding them while the ICE prepares deportation proceedings. The Secure Communities program has been discontinued in November 2014, while the detainer provision has been criticized as "unconstitutional."

The proposal also revives the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g) that allows the Federal Government to deputize local law enforcement as immigration law enforcers. This includes the authorization to process and detain illegal immigrants encountered in the course of their daily work.

The memo establishes the Victim of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office to act as a liaison between victims of criminal aliens and the ICE. The proposal aims to provide information about the immigrant offender to the victims, and to this end, mentions prior policies that extend Privacy Act protections to non-residents that are "leaving victims marginalized and without a voice."

Kelly, through the memo, instructs the DHS to stop extending Privacy Act protections to non-citizens. This rescinds the previous memo that treats all personal information in the DHS records as being subject to the Privacy Act, regardless of immigration status.

Building the Wall

Kelly orders the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to immediately begin the planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall along the southern border. The CBP is also tasked to identify all sources of funding, including preparing Congressional budget requests.

The memo proposals, if approved, would expand the criteria for fast-track deportation that skips hearings or reviews. Currently, "expedited removal" is used for immigrants apprehended within 14 days of entry, and only within 100 miles of the border or the coast.

Kelly authorizes the removal of aliens to the other side of the border at their point of entry, while deportation proceedings are still ongoing. Note that this is regardless of the nationality of the immigrant — immigrants entering through the Mexico border will be held in Mexico, even if they are from somewhere else. This removes the current option to be held at a U.S. detention center while waiting for an immigration hearing.

It remains to be seen if the memos will be unchanged under the White House review.

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