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Trump Executive Order Broadens Causes for Deportation

Feb 1, 2017

Lost in the drama that has followed President Trump’s immigration-related executive orders is a measure that could drastically affect immigrants in America. In last Wednesday’s “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” the top line of the news was the controversial wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but the executive order will affect many immigrants in America who have nothing to do with the wall. As Jennifer Medina wrote in The New York Times, “the most immediate impact may come from language about deportation priorities that is tucked into the border wall order. It offers an expansive definition of who is considered a criminal—a category of people Mr. Trump has said he would target for deportation. Immigration agents will now have wider latitude to enforce federal laws and are being encouraged to deport broad swaths of unauthorized immigrants.”

The language in Trump’s executive order allows for the deportation of foreign nationals who have been charged—not convicted—of a criminal offense, as well as anyone who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” regardless of whether he or she was arrested for it or not. Under the executive order language, authorities could deport someone believed to have committed a criminal act, even if he or she was never charged nor found guilty.

The executive order also includes foreign nationals who is engaged in “fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency.” Many undocumented workers use false Social Security numbers to apply for jobs, and under the new language, they would all be priorities for deportation.

Former AILA President David Leopold pointed out at that Trump’s executive order “targets anyone who was ever convicted of any criminal offense, regardless of what the offense was, when it occurred, or the circumstances of the conviction.” Decades-old traffic violations and recent violent crimes will be treated as equal under Trump.

Those who have received their final removal orders but remain in the country still would also be “Federal immigration priorities,” as Trump’s executive order calls them. “Up to 750,000 people will now newly be considered priorities for deportation,” writes’s Danny Vinik, even though they have no criminal convictions. “The new priorities grant immigration officers the power to make an individual determination that an individual poses a risk to the public—but don't appear to include any oversight to ensure that the officer isn't simply rounding up non-threatening undocumented immigrants,” Vinik writes.  

Acting on Trump's new policy will not be easy, though. DHS will require additional money to pay for the extra ICE agents to enforce them and  new detention facilities to hold prospective deportees. The backlog in the immigration courts that is also so serious that a detainee picked up today might not get before a judge for another year and a half. According to John Sandweg, acting director of ICE under President Obama,  “By rounding up this many people, all you do is make it harder and slower to make the real dangerous people out. There’s not enough immigration judges. There’s not enough back end support to get all these people out of the country. By shoving all these non-threatening individuals into the system, you’re just delaying removing people who pose an actual threat to the country.”

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