The Trump administration has issued tough new orders for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigrants, putting nearly all of the country’s 11 million undocumented foreigners in its cross-hairs, South China Morning Post reports.
The orders on Tuesday sent shivers throughout US immigrant communities, where millions of people, most of them from Mexico and Central America, were seriously threatened with deportation for the first time in decades.
Rights groups labelled the move a “witch hunt”, warning that a threatened “mass deportation” would damage families with deep roots in the United States and hurt the economy.
But John Kelly, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who issued the new orders in two memos, said they were necessary to address a problem that has “overwhelmed” government resources.
And he’s right, of course.
“The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” he said in one of the memos.
The new rules make it easier for border patrol and immigration officers to quickly deport any illegal immigrants they find, with only a few exceptions, principally children.
The priority will remain undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, as well as anyone who has been charged or potentially faces criminal charges.
However, people deemed as low priority for deportation by the previous Barack Obama administration – generally anyone not tied to a crime – are no longer protected.
“With extremely limited exceptions, DHS will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement,” the memos said. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States.” Read more at South China Morning Post.