New DHS Memos Take the Heart Out of Immigration Law

Although the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memos were leaked over the weekend, I didn’t want to add to the confusion by posting about something not verified.  But the news is out there and as far as we can tell, these memos are already in effect. 

How do we know? Because people arrested for not wearing a seat belt are being turned over to ICE. People who have lived here for 20 years and worked as maids are being picked up and deported because of an old deportation order that they may not have known even existed.

**Update: The White House just made the memos official this morning.

The memos tell DHS employees how to do their jobs and how they should prioritize their work. It’s a roadmap. In truth, I think it’s a roadmap to a waste of resources, to fear in our communities, to increased lawlessness due to lack of immigrant cooperation, to a burden on our social service programs because children will be left without parents. It’s a roadmap on how to be unfeeling, callous and cruel. 

We have two memos to look at. 

“Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policy”

  • DHS is required to detain nearly everyone they come in contact with, even if there is no criminal history
    • But how? There’s an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US and DHS currently has space for 34,000.
  • Expanding of 287(g) programs, which allows local law enforcement to act as immigration officers
    • This program never went away under President Obama, but it was criticized so heavily for eroding trust in the immigrant community that it wasn’t used by many jurisdictions.
  • Expanding Expedited Removals, which removes a person’s right to see am immigration judge and fight to remain in the United States
    • The new memo allows DHS to question anyone in the country and then detain and deport them if they can’t show that they’ve been in the US for more than two years.
    • This is a massive expansion over previous policies that restricted this program to 100 miles along the border and applying if you couldn’t demonstrate that you’d been in the US for at least 14 days.
    • This is scary. It applies to parents of US citizens, the elderly, anyone who DHS believes is in the US without proper documentation.
  • Limiting Parole Authority, which granted an “admission” to an immigrant who would otherwise be ineligible to adjust status in the U.S.
    • This removes the Parole in Place program that provided a benefit to our military families. Now, while someone is willing to risk their lives for the U.S., the U.S. could be deporting their loved ones.
  • Deporting children by restricting who can be an “unaccompanied minor”

“Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest”

  • Everyone is a priority for removal
    • If you’ve been convicted, charged, or even committed acts that would constitute a criminal activity you are a priority for arrest and removal. It does not matter if you are found guilty or not.
    • Anyone who has committed fraud against a government agency is a priority. That includes using a false name to work, to get a driver’s license or using a fraudulent Social Security Number.
  • Limiting Prosecutorial Discretion
    • While awaiting guidance on what this will look like in the field, it means that classes of people, like those who have been in the U.S. for a long time and  have U.S. citizen family members will be treated the same as those with no ties to the country.
    • This provision will certainly lead to families be torn apart. This takes all the heart and humanity out of our immigration system,
  • Directs ICE, CBP and USCIS to create regulations to collect fines and penalties against anyone who facilitates someone’s unlawful presence.
    • This could mean employers, priests who shield their parishioners, maybe even family members of the undocumented.

In the next blog post, we’ll take a look at how you can protect yourself and your family.

-Tracie