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Homeland Security Unveils New Rules On Immigration Law Enforcement


We're learning more about how the Trump administration plans to crack down on illegal immigration. The Department of Homeland Security released new rules laid out in two documents signed by Secretary John Kelly. They detail how the department plans to enforce president Trump's executive orders on immigration and border security. Here's how White House Spokesman Sean Spicer described them.


SEAN SPICER: Those people who are in this country and pose a threat to our public safety or have committed a crime will be the first to go. And we will be aggressively making sure that that occurs, that that is what the priority is.

SHAPIRO: Joining us now with more is NPR's Joel Rose. Hi, Joel.


SHAPIRO: So who would be eligible for deportation under these new rules?

ROSE: Well, the new rules would greatly expand those who could be considered a priority for deportation. Under the Obama administration, immigrants convicted of, quote, "serious crimes," unquote, were the priority. Under the new rules, federal agents could seek to deport immigrants convicted of any crime - period. But the rules make other people a priority, too, including anyone who's, quote, "abused any program related to receipt of public benefits," unquote, and anyone an immigration officer deems a risk to public safety or national security.

One notable exception here is the so-called Dreamers, young people who were brought to the country illegally as children. These rules specifically exempt DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. So the Dreamers have gotten a reprieve here, but it appears that their parents and potentially millions of others have not.

SHAPIRO: And what kind of a response have we seen today from immigrant rights advocates?

ROSE: They say these rules are written so broadly that they make anyone in the country illegally potentially a target for deportation, potentially as many as 8 to 11 million people. Marielena Hincapie is executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

MARIELENA HINCAPIE: Today's memos offer a guide to allow Trump to enact his mass deportation agenda which he talked about during the campaign trail but actually are even more extreme than his rhetoric.

ROSE: They say these rules are intended to cause chaos and anxiety and fear in immigrant communities and that they're working. The administration denies that this is a mass deportation order, and DHS officials say they don't have the manpower to do that even if they wanted to, which they say they don't.

SHAPIRO: And Joel, there's also a big backlog already at immigration courts across the country, so what is the practical effect of this likely to be?

ROSE: In the short run, the changes may not be very dramatic. DHS has asked for a lot more staff. They want to hire 10,000 immigration and customs agents, 5,000 border patrol agents. But that will require more funding from Congress. In the long run, the DHS memos suggest that the department wants to expand what is known as expedited removal, which means that migrants would not get a chance to go before an immigration judge but would simply be deported.

Under President Obama, this expedited process was only used for recently arrived immigrants within a hundred miles of the border. DHS is looking to expand expedited removal all over the country for any immigrant who can't show that they've been here for at least two years.

SHAPIRO: Joel, something else in these memos that's gotten a lot of attention is that Homeland Security wants to revive a partnership between federal and local law enforcement. What can you tell us about that?

ROSE: Yeah, this is the controversial program known by the catchy name 287(g).

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

ROSE: It was started under the George W. Bush administration. Critics charge that it led to racial profiling by state and local officers who didn't really understand federal immigration law. The federal government actually terminated one such agreement with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2011 after the Justice Department found that county officers unlawfully stopped and detained Latinos. But DHS officials say this potentially is a, quote, "force multiplier" for them, and they noted that the police undergo extensive training and that racial profiling would not be tolerated.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Joel Rose. Thanks, Joel.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.