With the Trump administration on Tuesday releasing expanded rules on immigration enforcement, Kansas City area advocates who assist illegal residents are urging them to carry evidence of having lived in the country at least two years.
More recent arrivals could face immediate deportation, with no hearing or judge, if experts’ interpretation of the new rules is correct.
“The majority of the (illegal) immigrant population has been here 10 or 20 years,” said Kansas City immigration lawyer Jessica Piedra. To ensure their rights to defend themselves from deportation in court if stopped by an officer, she said, they would be wise to show proof of a bank account or bill payment from long ago.
“If not on their persons,” suggested Northland lawyer Bill Niffen, “they should at least have those documents somewhere if they need them.”
The release of the new federal directives — two memorandums signed Monday by Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — set off a nationwide scramble within immigrant and legal communities to determine how best to challenge the new rules, which reverse years of more lenient practices.
Under current regulations, so-called “expedited removal” can be applied only to people who’ve been caught within 100 miles of the border and who have been in the United States 14 days or less. The new regulations, however, would allow immigration agents to remove people caught anywhere in the United States who have been in the country two years or less.
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, called the expanded rules for immediate removal “mind boggling” and predicted court challenges to a number of other provisions. They include changes in the way asylum cases are to be treated and new guidelines on when an asylum seeker has a credible fear if returned to his or her homeland.
The ACLU of Missouri also pledged to do what it could challenge aspects of the policy the group would deem unconstitutional. “As we’ve said since from Day 1 of the Trump presidency, we will continue to see this administration in court,” said Daniela Valezquez, director of communications for the ACLU office in St. Louis.
In releasing the Homeland Security memos to the public, the Trump administration said it sought to allay fears in immigrant communities.
“We do not need a sense of panic,” said one Homeland Security official, answering reporters’ question on condition of anonymity, in a Tuesday conference call.
“We do not have the personnel, time and resources to go into communities and round up people,” the official added.
The final orders, distributed to agency heads on Monday, wiped away protections implemented by the Obama administration that were designed to protect those in the United States illegally who had not committed other crimes.
The final orders are very similar to drafts dated Friday that McClatchy Newspapers had obtained over the weekend but that White House officials insisted had yet to receive final White House approval.
Beefing up enforcement
If carried out, the directives would require a considerable increase in staffing and money for enforcement — a topic already being argued in the Kansas statehouse.
In addition to foreseeing the hiring of 10,000 more agents to enforce immigration laws away from the border, the memos instruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as Customs and Border Protection, to begin reviving a program that recruits local police officers and sheriff’s deputies. The effort, known as the 287(g) program, was scaled back by the Obama administration.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has said that he served on the team that crafted President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive orders on immigration, including the section that revives the 287(g) program.
Kobach also has introduced state legislation that would require the Kansas Highway Patrol to participate in the program. Lawmakers reviewed that legislation in a hearing last week in Topeka, where the patrol laid out concerns.
Kobach was in Washington during the hearing, but contended in written testimony that it is impractical to rely on Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in situations when a Highway Patrol officer might be closer.
“In effect, they become deputized as temporary ICE agents. With these additional powers, they can make immigration arrests, undertake immigration investigations, take custody of illegal aliens for ICE, and process cases for removal,” Kobach said in testimony supporting the bill.
The patrol noted in its testimony that it is currently short 70 troopers and that a redirection of resources “is likely to result in a reduction of the agency’s ability to perform its life and public safety, statutory mission.”
In Washington, Homeland Security Department officials stressed that guidelines in Kelly’s memos are intended to make more full use of enforcement tools already provided by Congress to stem a population of 11 million illegal immigrants.
“We are not creating anything out of whole cloth,” one official said during the conference call with media.
The officials also made clear that nothing in the directives would change the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA provides work permits and deportation protection for young immigrants, commonly called Dreamers, who were illegally brought into the country as youngsters.
Trump may be sticking with an earlier hint to protect the Dreamers, said lawyer Jesus Guereca of the Immigration Professionals legal services in the Northland.
“He’s unpredictable, if nothing else,” Guereca said of the president. “Keeping DACA intact I find somewhat encouraging.”
The McClatchy Washington Bureau, The New York Times and the Washington Post contributed to this story.