A new memo from the Department of Homeland Security indicates that Donald Trump is going to do what he promised during his campaign and implement a harsh immigration crackdown.
DHS Secretary John Kelly’s guidance, which was sent to heads of several agencies on Tuesday, lays the groundwork for mass deportations in the United States. It makes clear that anyone who is in America illegally that gets charged or convicted for any offense, however minor, or is even suspected of a crime, will be prioritized. That includes traffic violations, shoplifting, or having illegally crossed the border.
What’s notable about the memo is the expansion of "expedited removal" procedures, which allow officials to bypass due process protections like court hearings (which is very likely to face a challenge on constitutional grounds). Immigrants can be removed from the country without being given the opportunity to present their case to a judge. Since at least 2002, these deportations only took place for immigrants found within 100 miles of the border within two weeks of entering illegally, according to The Associated Press.
For the record, the memos do not change current U.S. immigration laws: They simply call for law enforcement to use them with more enthusiasm. Still, these escalated deportation efforts could create a lot of problems, like further complicating our relationship with Mexico.
We decided to explore a few hot messes the memo might create.
It isn’t clear who is going to pay for all this
The memo calls for the hiring of 5,000 brand new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. But making those hires (and implementing the rest of the plan, for that matter) is going to cost billions of dollars, and Trump’s administration has yet to specify where that money is going to come from, The New York Times reports. A DHS official did state that they are working on a "hiring plan,” according to Politico.
John Sandweg, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under Barack Obama, told The Washington Post that this could cost as much as $1 billion to $2 billion in the first year — which would be spent on hiring, training and equipment. Politico estimated it would cost about $4 billion per year.
Sandweg also brought up another source of concern: diverting resources to increase deportations. He argues that in asking agents to focus on lower-level offenders, authorities may not be able to address the serious criminals.
“A lot of this is designed to put up numbers — but in doing so, you diminish the impact on public safety,” Sandweg told the Post, adding that the policies will “disproportionately impact non-criminals.”
Vague guidance might give immigration agents too much freedom
The memo states that undocumented immigrants who, in the judgment of an immigration officer, “pose a risk to public safety or national security,” should be prioritized for removal. Calling this phrasing vague is an understatement. It gives individual immigration enforcement agents license to kick any undocumented immigrants out of the U.S.
The loose language of the memo puts a lot of trust in law enforcement. As Salon's political writer Simon Maloy put it: “The whole attitude of the Trump administration is to give law enforcement every benefit of the doubt and to dismiss issues of systemic discrimination as the actions of rogue officers and bad apples.”
Implementing the policies is going to take a lot of time
There might not be enough people on the front lines to implement the memo. The Associated Press reports that “two of every three applicants for Customs and Border Protection jobs fail polygraph exams and there are about 2,000 vacancies.”
Additionally, there aren’t a lot of judges who can hear cases. “Immigrants already have to wait an average of 2.5 years to have a hearing before an immigration judge. Unless the administration finds funding to hire more immigration judges, those backlogs will skyrocket,” Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer and adjunct professor at Cornell Law School, told Buzzfeed.
Our frosty relationship with Mexico is only getting colder
The memo states that Trump is asking all agencies to figure out how much funding Mexico receives from America “in an apparent bid to force the country to pay for the wall,” Politico reported. The document claims “initial construction of new infrastructure” will take place in locations near El Paso, Texas, El Centro, California, and in Southern Arizona.
Mexico has already refused to pay for the structure. The country’s president, Enrique Peña, canceled a meeting with Trump over the wall, which was a centerpiece of two demonstrations in Mexico attended by an estimated crowd of 20,000 people.
Additionally, the memo suggests that America will send some Central American immigrants back to Mexico instead of their home countries. “That could put a huge burden on Mexico, and especially border communities,” Politico reports.
On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are supposed to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and other top officials. The memo probably decreases the odds of a kumbaya moment between the two countries. "It does poison the general context in which the trip is taking place," Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States, told Politico. "It will create public opinion backlash and congressional backlash in Mexico."
Discouraging immigration may harm America
Thinking about things in the big picture, Trump’s hard stance on immigration may tarnish what makes the country great. Acclaimed theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku has argued that immigration is the driving force behind America’s success.
Kaku stresses that immigration brings in new ideas. "Most of the prosperity that we see around us is due to the genius of the people that came in the so-called brain drain,” Kaku told NBC News. “There is a brain drain into the United States."
Kaku also argues that immigration doesn’t leave native-born Americans jobless to large extent. "These people do not replace American workers. They create new industries."
Which is why it’s worth noting that Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant.