—Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly signed new guidelines on Saturday giving federal authorities the power to more aggressively crack down on illegal immigration, marking what experts call a major shift in US immigration policies.
Under the new guidelines, outlined in a pair of memos, the agency plans to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests, and speed up deportation hearings – directives that would replace nearly all guidelines put in place by previous administrations.
“The surge of immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” Secretary Kelly wrote, citing a surge of 10,000 to 15,000 additional apprehensions per month at the US-Mexico border between 2015 and 2016.
Since taking office in January, President Trump has come under fire for what immigrant rights advocates have denounced as unprecedented action against undocumented people in the United States. In a series of executive orders last month, the president expanded the power of immigration officers and announced plans to fulfill his campaign promises by building a wall along the southern US border.
Raids in early February, in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents (ICE) rounded up more than 680 people in nearly a dozen states, spurred widespread fear across immigrant communities.
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