The Department of Homeland Security Tuesday cast a wide net over undocumented immigrants in a new enforcement directive that broadened the categories of who is subject to apprehension and potentially deportation.
The move is likely to exacerbate the fear and anxiety running through immigrant communities since Donald Trump was elected president.
One man at an immigration meeting with newly minted Congressman Darren Soto said it felt like “it’s attack after attack.”
The DHS directive is in response to a January 25 executive order by President Trump, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.”
Because it is so broad just about anybody can be stopped, questioned, detained and deported, including undocumented immigrants who:
(I) have been convicted of any criminal offense;
(2) have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
(3) have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
(4) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency;
(5) have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
(6) are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States;
or (7) in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
Categories (2) and (3) make it clear that the directive doesn’t target only undocumented individuals convicted of a crime, as former President Barack Obama‘s previous priority did, but the undocumented can be detained and removed if they are charged but not yet convicted of a crime, a potential opening for lawyers to challenge as that provision may violate due process.
Shift in Approach
The directive represents a wholesale shift in thinking and approach about how to handle the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants in the U.S., many of whom are Latinos. Previous estimates indicated that fewer than 1 million undocumented immigrants remained in the country who had been convicted of crimes which made them deportable.
Under Obama’s eight-year administration, nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants were deported, an unprecedented number, prompting some critics to label him the “Deporter in Chief.”
The new enforcement action aims at all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States – with the exception of the undocumented children and parents who fall under Obama’s “deferred action” programs.
Exemption for DACA and DAPA
The exemptions of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Arrivals (DAPA) are the sole bright spots in an otherwise bearish immigration enforcement directive.
DACA and DAPA beneficiaries total about 4 million.
To ensure enforcement, the directive also calls for hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, nearly doubling the current number and boosting the likelihood of a run-in with ICE.
Many Latinos – undocumented or not, citizen or permanent resident or not – have a higher chance of being stopped and questioned as immigration agents search for the undocumented among us.
Farmworker advocate Tirso Moreno likened it to a form of profiling during Congressman Soto’s immigration community meeting. Moreno also raised the issue of potential “bullying in the streets” of people stopped at traffic signals, for instance.
“I realize it’s not going to be easy,” Soto replied.
Soto added that lawsuits are likely as there are “many institutions that are ready to step up,” referring to colleges and universities that have indicated they are not going to comply with immigration orders.
Miami-Dade County has taken the opposite course, as its County Commission voted last week to end its status as a sanctuary for immigrants and agreed to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Miami-Dade has the largest population of immigrants in Florida.
Florida Ranks Third in Undocumented Immigrants
According to Pew Research, Florida ranks third in the nation for undocumented immigrants, placing the state behind California and Texas. The Center for Migration Policy estimates there are over 700,000 undocumented immigrants in Florida.
Plus, about two-thirds of those undocumented did not cross the southern border with Mexico, as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) has indicated. They entered the country legally but overstayed their visas, considered a civil offense.
About 66 percent of the nation’s undocumented immigrant adults have been in the country at least a decade, the Pew Research reported, making them long-term residents.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor