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Trump hard-lines on immigration

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-22 12:10

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump's administration plans to consider almost all illegal immigrants subject to deportation, but will leave protections in place for immigrants known as "dreamers" who entered the United States illegally as children, according to official guidelines released on Tuesday.

The Department of Homeland Security guidance to immigration agents is part of a broader border security and immigration enforcement plan in executive orders that Republican Trump signed on Jan 25.

Former US President Barack Obama, a Democrat, issued an executive order in 2012 that protected 750,000 immigrants who had been brought into the United States illegally by their parents. Trump has said the issue is "very difficult" for him.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to get tougher on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, playing on fears of violent crime while promising to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to stop potential terrorists from entering the country.

Any immigrant who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or minor offenses - or simply having crossed the border illegally.

Crossing the border illegally is a criminal offense, and the new memos make clear that those who have done so are included in the broad list of enforcement priorities. Overstaying a visa is a civil, not criminal, offense. Those who do so are not specifically included in the priority list but, under the memos, they are still more likely to face deportation than they had been before.

Trump's earlier immigration orders, which banned all refugees as well as foreigners from seven Muslim-majority countries, have faced widespread criticism and legal action. A federal appeals court has upheld a temporary halt.

Kelly's enforcement plans call for enforcing a longstanding but obscure provision of immigration law that allows the government to send some people caught illegally crossing the Mexican border back to Mexico, regardless of where they are from.

Those foreigners would wait in that country for US deportation proceedings to be complete. This would be used for people who aren't considered a threat to cross the border illegally again, the memo says.

That provision is almost certain to face opposition from civil libertarians and Mexican officials, and it's unclear whether the United States has the authority to force Mexico to accept third-country nationals. But the memo also calls for Homeland Security to provide an account of US aid to Mexico, a possible signal that Trump plans to use that funding to get Mexico to accept the foreigners.

Mexico's new ambassador to the US, Geronimo Gutierrez, called the policy changes "something very serious". In a hearing Tuesday with Mexican senators, he said, "Obviously, they are a cause for concern for the foreign relations department, for the Mexican government, and for all Mexicans."

AP-Reuters

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