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US targets millions in new deportation plan

Illegal immigrants who have lived in the US for less than two years or have been charged with crimes are marked for speedy expulsion.

Donald Trump Presidency Updated: Feb 22, 2017 22:51 IST
HT Correspondent
An anti-Trump demonstration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Sunday.
An anti-Trump demonstration in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Sunday.(AFP)

The Donald Trump administration’s orders on Tuesday, that lay down guidelines and rules for enforcing the president’s promise to end illegal immigration, has sparked fears of mass deportations and expulsions, with the White House ominously adding that “the shackles are off”.

Two memorandums released by the department of homeland security (DHS) — which enforces immigration laws — broaden the scope of existing rules and regulations, hire more people to enforce them, enlist local law enforcement officers and give agents and agencies sweeping powers that will speed up considerably the process to detect, detain and deport illegal immigrants.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president wanted to “take the shackles off individuals in the agencies [like DHS, ICE (immigration and customs enforcement), and CBP (customs and border patrol].”

The orders spare DREAMERs — children brought or born to those who came to the US illegally — and illegally-staying parents of American citizens, but will target every other undocumented category.

“When you tell state and local police that their job is to do immigration enforcement, it translates into the unwarranted and illegal targeting of people because of their race, because of their language, because of the colour of their skin,” Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told The New York Times.

The new rules and guidelines are expected to figure in talks that US secretary of state Rex Tillersen and homeland security secretary John Kelly will hold in Mexico. (NYT File)

The crackdown, which has been under way already, with reports of detentions and deportation from several parts of the country for days now, is expected to gather speed and scope. For instance, an undocumented immigrant who cannot prove he or she has been in the US for longer than two years will be up for prioritised deportation.

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Also marked for speedy expulsion will be those charged with crimes — even traffic violations and low-level crimes, and not just those convicted as was the practice under Trump’s predecessors George W Bush and Barack Obama.

The new rules and guidelines are expected to figure in talks that US secretary of state Rex Tillersen and homeland security secretary John Kelly will hold in Mexico with senior leaders of the neighbouring country on Wednesday.

These are the first visits by senior US officials since Trump took office, amid growing tensions caused by his insistence on making Mexico pay for a wall he intends to build along the border to stop the influx of illegal immigrants. Mexico has said it will not pay for the wall.

There is tension also over Trump’s forcing American companies to either give up plans to shift manufacturing operations to Mexico, or to any other country, under the threat of a prohibitive 35% import duty on their products entering the US.