by Dinh Tran, Partner, Queen City Immigration Law. 704-500-2075
On Monday, February 20, 2017, the Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, issued a memorandum outlining an implementation plan for the Executive Order titled “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest,” which President Donald J. Trump signed on January 25, 2017. The memorandum states at the beginning that all “existing conflicting directives, memoranda, or field guidance” regarding immigration enforcement and priorities for removal are immediately rescinded, to the extent of the conflict, and names specifically the November 20, 2014 DHS memoranda “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of undocumented Immigrants” and “Secure Communities.” However, it specifically noted that the memoranda implementing DACA and DAPA, issued on June 15, 2012 and November 20, 2014, respectively, are NOT rescinded.
Consequently, going forward the Department of Homeland Security will execute federal immigration laws against all individuals who are present in the United States without authorization. No classes or categories of removable aliens will be exempt from potential enforcement. A person who has been living, working and contributing to the US economy for 20 years and without a criminal record will become a target for removal just as much as another person who just arrived to the United States a month prior or who has been convicted of a serious crime.
Additionally, the memorandum directs DHS personnel to make full use of all statutory authorities to remove aliens expeditiously. Specifically, it ends the Priority Enforcement Program, devotes resources to expanding the Criminal Alien Program to fast-track the removal individuals convicted of certain crimes, and encourages getting local law enforcement units on board via 287(g) agreements to allow them to execute federal immigration laws. The Secretary also called for establishment of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office to act as “programmatic liaison between ICE and the known victims of crime committed by removable aliens,” for hiring additional ICE officers and agents, and issuance of guidance and regulations to execute the assessment and collection of all fines and penalties against aliens and those who facilitate their unlawful presence.
Every instruction and directive in the memorandum closely follows the President's Executive Orders from last month and his campaign promises. However, somewhat surprisingly, the DACA and DAPA - which are programs to shield certain individuals who came to the United States as children and who have children that are either US citizens or lawful permanent residents, respectively, from removal - have been left in place for the time being. Although DACA, which has been popular and successful, allowing many young, educated, and intelligent individuals to live and work normally like their peers, continues on, its future is remains uncertain.