In January 2017, Donald J. Trump issued a series of heinous executive orders instructing federal immigration agencies to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border. This was a clear sign to law enforcement agencies and right-wing bigots that Trump would make good on his xenophobic and racist campaign promises and bring their visions of violent and indiscriminate mass deportations to fruition.
It was also a signal to the undocumented and immigrant community to begin organizing to defend themselves and fight back to stop any right-wing incursion. Attorneys with the immigrant-rights movement attacked the executive orders from a legal standpoint, explaining that they were nonsensical and unclear and would not stand in court. They wondered how law enforcement agencies could even enforce the law.
Now John Kelly, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, issued a memo to various other immigration agencies and the White House requesting federal funds and manpower to carry out the orders.
The memos are widely recognized as a blueprint for mass deportations. They indicate the continuation and in many ways the expansion of systematic violence against immigrants and the state-sanctioned dislocation and destruction of families.
Here are six ways the memos seek to destroy immigrant families:
1. Expand the scope of who can be targeted
The memos seek to greatly expand the category of immigrants DHS target for deportations, including any immigrant convicted or even accused of any crime no matter how trivial. During the last two presidential administrations, immigration agencies deported anyone without documentation; however, they were ordered to prioritize the arrests of immigrants who allegedly committed serious crimes. This rule was bent and broken, but at least on paper they tried to maintain a more progressive stance on a very reactionary policy.
The current DHS memo indicates that the new emerging agency under Trump and Kelly won’t be bothered to even feign a humanistic approach and that they would rather embrace their own rabid thirst to attack the less powerful. The memo would enable DHS forces to deport anyone they deem could be accused of a crime, or who “abused any program related to receipt of public benefits,” or anyone they view as a threat, which is so open ended that it could includes everyone.
2. More funds means more troops to the border
In an extreme waste of public funds when funding doctors and infrastructure are so desperately needed, the memo calls for an increase in budget and 15,000 more federal troops to enforce these attacks.
These funds would need to be approved by Congress, leading some to wonder whether representatives and senators will stand with the people and perform a check and balance to the executive branch. Others, who promote the hashtags #NotMyPresident and #NotMySystem, are skeptical, see Congress as Trump’s rubber stamp and point out the systematic racism against immigrants enshrined in the government at all levels.
3. More power through local agencies
The memos call for the resumption of cooperation between federal immigration agencies like Immigration Customs Enforcement and local police and sheriff law enforcement. This cooperation had been severed previously as it was well known to lead to massive racial profiling on our streets.
With the explicit resumption of cooperation from local police and sheriff offices plagued by police brutality, they would be financially incentivized to look for immigrants and report them to ICE. Cops would be prowling in immigrant communities looking for people without proper identification.
4. Deport children and prosecute parents
The new guidelines would go so far as to rip young children away from their families and send them alone to countries where they have no secure way to survive unless they have extended family members with means. Oftentimes this includes sending unaccompanied youth to war-torn countries where children are at risk of death daily.
The guidelines would also add insult to injury, or injury to injury, by then prosecuting in court the parents who sent for their children. Trying to reunite with your family would become a punishable crime.
5. Deport faster, skip the judge
In an effort to streamline the destruction of families, the memos call for the expansion of “expedited removals,” basically taking away the democratic right to “your day in court.” It would be expanded to apply to an undocumented person anywhere in the country that they believe had entered into the U.S. within the last two years. (Previously, this had only been allowed to certain cases when immigrants had just crossed within the last two weeks and were still physically located in near-border towns.)
6. Build the wall
In the most pure display of arrogance, the memo calls for the immediate “design, construction and maintenance of a wall … along the land border with Mexico.” The cornerstone of Trump’s bigoted campaign promise, the border wall is fraught with logistical and environmental problems and is considered by most reputable engineers and public policy analysts as asinine and unnecessarily destructive.