President Trump is reportedly mulling a new policy that would beef up the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to deport illegal immigrants and help him keep his campaign promise of cracking down on border-crossers as advocates warn the move to bypass immigration courts would set off a wave of protests.
Under the proposal, which was confirmed to The Washington Post by two administration officials, “DHS agents would be empowered to seek the expedited removal of illegal immigrants apprehended anywhere in the United States who can’t prove they’ve lived here continuously for 90 days.”
For the last 13 years, the agency has only been authorized to bypass immigration courts for immigrants who have been illegally living in the country for less than two weeks and who were apprehended within 100 miles of the border, the Post reported.
Joanne F. Talbot, a DHS spokeswoman, told the Post she hadn’t seen the memo, which she described as a draft.
And though Talbot said no final decision has been made by Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, news of the possible policy change was hailed as “an excellent idea” by Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies.
“This is another step toward ending the catch and release program that has been the story of our immigration enforcement for too many years now,” Vaughan told the Herald. “And it’s cost-effective for the government, it’s going to save communities a lot of money in services that they’re providing to people who end up living here illegally — and Massachusetts is certainly one of those destinations.”
Vaughan was quick to point out that in 1996 Congress authorized the expedited deportations of illegal immigrants apprehended anywhere in the U.S. who couldn’t prove they’d been here for two years, but those powers were limited by former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
“The Bush administration limited it, the Obama administration limited it further, and so I think it’s very smart for the Trump administration to want to make use of it,” Vaughan said. “People shouldn’t be home free once they make it into the United States. If they’re caught in a fairly short period of time after making it past border control, it ought to be very easy to remove them — they shouldn’t be entitled to intensive due process in our immigration system.”
But Boston immigration lawyer Joshua Goldstein predicted that any effort by the Trump administration to expand expedited deportations would set off a huge legal battle similar to the widespread pushback that erupted against the president’s first travel ban.
“It’s going to be a big fight,” Goldstein said, adding that there’s good reason there are strict rules and guidelines regarding when federal authorities can remove someone from the United States without a hearing before a federal immigration judge and without the chance to hire an immigration attorney.
“You can’t just come out with a memo and undo all that regulatory authority,” Goldstein said.
The Trump administration’s wavering on DACA — the Obama policy allowing children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents to remain in the country — and statements made by Homeland Security officials are cause for concern, Goldstein said.
“It’s pretty terrifying,” he said. “You have a level of hostility toward immigrants that we have never seen before.”
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