On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed two Executive Orders, which impacted immigrants nationwide. No doubt you have heard about the building of a physical wall on the border with Mexico and back and forth argument on who will bear the cost. The impact of the Executive Orders, however, is much more serious than who gets to pay for the wall or than what has been reported on the news. In an attempt to avoid information overload, this blog will focus only on the more problematic aspects of each Order.
The first Executive Order entitled “Border Security and immigration Enforcement” was signed on January 25, 2017 and it directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allocate funds to construct a physical wall on the border with Mexico and detention facilities. In addition, the EO directs DHS to “empower [s]tate and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer” (EO, Sec. 10) under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In other words, state and local law enforcement will have the authority to investigate, apprehend, or detain aliens. These types of agreements under INA 287(g) were reduced significantly during the Obama administration because they were problematic and led to racial profiling and due process violations. Even more troubling is that, in conjunction with 287(g) agreements, the EO expands “expedited removal” to allow the removal of undocumented individual – including those with U.S. citizen spouses and children, without ever seeing an immigration judge. (AILA Doc. No. 17012505). Needless to say, the cost involved in building a wall is minimal next to the due process violations that are likely to occur when empowering state and local authorities to act as immigration officers, and when removing individuals without a court hearing.
The second Executive Order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” was also signed on January 25, 2017 and it increases Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resources by hiring additional officers. Troubling, however, is the new enforcement priorities which basically changes the definition of who is a “criminal” for immigration purposes. In essence, the EO makes every undocumented individual a priority for removal, including those who “have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved,” those who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense,” and, broadly, those who “otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security” (EO, Sec. 5). Under the language of the EO, priorities could also include those who have been charged with minor offenses such as jaywalking as well as those who have overstayed their visas. The EO raises serious due process concerns. For instance, anyone charged with a crime – but not yet convicted, could be subject of removal prior to resolution of their state case. In addition, the definition of who “pose[s] a risk to public safety or national security” is left to the discretion of the arresting Federal, state, or local agent. (AILA Doc. No. 17012506).
Needless to say, the implications of each Executive Order are many, and anyone who is impacted by the Orders should immediately seek the advice of competent counsel.