Local activists and elected officials this week lashed out at newly released memos outlining planned federal efforts to crack down on people living in the country illegally, saying the directives set the stage for mass deportations.
“The administration’s immigration executive orders will have serious negative consequences for our country, ripping apart families and crippling our economy,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, said. “As we work to reform our broken immigration system, we should be focusing on deporting those who are a threat to our country, not on those who are contributing members of our communities.”
The Department of Homeland Security issued two memos outlining how it will implement President Donald Trump’s executive order issued during his first week in office that seeks to aggressively expand enforcement of immigration laws.
According to the directives, anyone “in violation of immigration law may be the subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.
Trump’s new priorities represent a dramatic shift in federal immigration policy, since the Obama administration only focused on deporting people with serious criminal records. Trump’s order said, “Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety.”
In the memos, DHS Secretary John F. Kelly wrote that “the faithful execution of our immigration laws is best achieved by using all these statutory authorities to the greatest extent practicable.”
The White House press secretary said Trump’s intention is to “take the shackles off” immigration authorities, but the emphasis is still on targeting “people who pose a threat to our country.”
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the memos amount to a “witch hunt.”
“These immigration enforcement memos are a one-size-fits-all mass deportation approach full of punishment, completely void of fairness and justice,” Salas said. “Let’s be clear about this: These guidelines represent an unlawful, expedited process, a dragnet, to remove undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S. This is a dastardly approach to a very human issue.”