The US administration has issued tough new orders to begin a sweeping crackdown on undocumented immigrants, putting nearly all of the country’s 11 million undocumented foreigners in target for deportation.
Two memos signed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary, John Kelly, on Tuesday make it easier for officials to automatically expel undocumented immigrants.
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They order border patrol and immigration officers to deport as quickly as possible any undocumented immigrants they find, with only a few exceptions, principally children.
Although the priority for deportation will remain undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, it will also include anyone who has been charged or potentially faces criminal charges.
In addition, categories of undocumented immigrants deemed as low priority by the previous Barack Obama administration, generally anyone not tied to a crime, are no longer protected.
“With extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement,” the department said.
“All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States.”
Kelly said the mass detentions of the past, requiring judicial review, have overburdened the government.
“The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” he said in one of the memos.
“Thousands of aliens apprehended at the border, placed in removal proceedings, and released from custody have absconded and failed to appear at their removal hearings. Immigration courts are experiencing a historic backlog of removal cases.”
Kelly ordered immediate action to begin planning and building a wall along the US southern border with Mexico.
He also ordered the hiring of another 5,000 officers for the Customs and Border Protection agency and 10,000 for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Soon after being inaugurated president on January 20, President Donald Trump ordered action to begin construction of a wall along the nearly 2,000-mile-long (3,145km) US-Mexico border, a tightening of border security, and tougher enforcement against undocumented immigrants inside the country.
The memos come before meetings this week between Kelly and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico.
Besides Pena Nieto, the two American officials will meet Mexico’s ministers of the interior, foreign affairs, finance, defence and the navy, the Department of State said.
Key topics include border security, law enforcement operation and trade, according to a state department statement.