Arizona officials react to new DHS order expanding immigration enforcement

Officers with Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and some local police agencies would have greater latitude to deport immigrants under policies laid out by the Department of Homeland Security. (Photo by Cronkite News)

The Department of Homeland Security has ordered more aggressive enforcement of detainment and deportation laws for undocumented immigrants, prioritizing those with criminal convictions but putting anyone in the U.S. illegally at risk of expulsion.

The memos, which were released Tuesday morning by Homeland Secretary John Kelly, detail how agencies should implement the detainment and deportation provisions introduced in President Donald Trump’s campaign messages. They exclude those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants temporary protection to immigrants who were brought into the country before the age of 16 and who meet several program criteria. But the Trump administration crackdown applies to others who are undocumented.

Former President Barack Obama placed deportation priority on undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes. Trump’s plan prioritizes those with any criminal conviction and takes it a step further by instructing agents to detain anyone in violation of immigration laws and begin the deportation process.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said the DHS orders show the Trump administration is targeting the immigrant community and called the policies outlined in the memo “un-American.”

“These new guidelines tell us one thing: the Trump administration is willing to go after just about any member of the immigrant community,” Gallego said in a statement. “Last week, ICE arrested a DACA recipient and continues to hold him in custody without showing sufficient cause for his detention. Now the administration releases guidelines that lay the groundwork for mass deportation and tries to sell it to the American people as business-as-usual. This is far from the truth.”

Gallego also claimed the policies could impact those who have not yet been convicted of a crime.

“Under these new rules, ICE can go after people who have not been found guilty of committing a crime and remove them from the country within days of their arrest,” according to the statement. “It also strips anyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of many due process protections. These are not the values our country was founded on.”

The memos expand authority to local and state law enforcement to assist immigration officers. Any qualifying local or state agency that wants to participate in ICE’s 287(g) program, which essentially gives participants the authority of immigration agents. The Mesa Police Department, Yavapai and Pinal County Sheriff’s Offices and the Arizona Department of Corrections are the only agencies in the state that currently participate.

Mark Casey, director of public information for Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, said the agency wouldn’t comment on the memoranda Tuesday, but he emphasized that MCSO’s priority was to keep the county safe and figure out citizenship issues later. He added that the agency would do what the law requires and would not do raids or target people because of their skin color.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery spoke about the memoranda on Wednesday morning, clarifying what action will be taken by Maricopa County jails.

“In circumstances where we have a state court order to release someone from the jail, they have to be released and you can’t hold them on the basis of a civil immigration retainer,” Montgomery said. “You can communicate with ICE that we’ve got the state court order and someone’s going to be processed for release, and you can cooperate the transfer of custody of someone once they’ve been released from state custody.”

The order also calls for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, along with 500 Air and Marine agents. It also instructs ICE to hire 10,000 more agents and officers.

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, acknowledged the need for immigration reform, but indicated that separating families was not part of the solution.

“It is imperative that the administration works with Congress to find a solution that secures our borders, protects our communities and creates a pathway to citizenship for those who wish to come to our country legally,” O’Halleran said in an email statement. “We should be focused on expanding the use of 21st century technology along our borders; not tearing apart families and ruining the lives of immigrants in our country.”

The DHS order ends “catch and release” programs at the border, saying they “undermine the border security mission.” It also calls for a wall to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The memos, which also establish an office within ICE for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, state detention will prevent further crimes by undocumented immigrants.

“Detention also prevents such aliens from committing crimes while at large in the United States, ensures that aliens will appear for their removal proceedings, and substantially increases the likelihood that aliens lawfully ordered removed will be removed,” Kelly wrote in a memo.

Republican members of Arizona’s Congressional delegation did not respond to our requests for comment.