Kelly outlines how Homeland Security will implement immigration, border orders
By Steve Bittenbender
Editor, Government Security News
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelley issued two memos earlier this week indicating how he expects immigration and border control officials to implement President Trump’s executive orders tightening enforcement of the country’s existing laws.
One of the memos, both of which were signed on Monday, deals with the executive order Trump signed on Jan. 25 to bolster security along the United States’ southern border. While that order is best known for Trump’s declaration of a wall between America and Mexico, it also called on Kelly to take others steps to strengthen the 2,000-mile long stretch.
In the memo on border security, Kelly noted that the number of stops agents made along the southern border grew by nearly 50 percent from November 2015 to November 2016. That increase “significantly strained” Homeland Security resources, he said.
“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,” Kelly wrote. “Thousands of aliens apprehended at the border, placed in removal proceedings and released from custody have absconded and failed to appear at their removal hearings. Immigration courts are experiencing a historic backlog of removal cases, primarily proceedings… for individuals who are not currently detained.”
That’s not the only surge associated with monitoring the country’s borders, according to Statista. In 1990, the U.S. budgeted $260 million for border patrol. Last year, it was $3.65 billion. (See chart: https://www.statista.com/chart/8206/enacted-border-patrol-program-budget-in-the-united-states/?utm_campaign=5db80359af-InfographicTicker_EN_Early_00004&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Infographic%20Newsletter&utm_term=0_666fe64c5d-5db80359af-296205437)
Among the steps Kelly has authorized is returning an illegal alien who crossed the Mexican border back to Mexico, even if that individual is not a Mexican resident. The secretary said doing that will allow DHS to save its resources for higher priority cases.
However, Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador to China, said on Twitter that would require Mexico’s willingness to detain those individuals. Guajardo, a senior partner with McLarty Associates in Washington, added that’s not as easy as it seems.
Some key pieces of Trump’s southern border plan hinge on Mexico’s willing to participate or finance. The President has called for Mexico to pay the border wall he’s ordered, but Mexican officials have said repeatedly they are not interested in doing that.
Kelly also said he is looking for more jurisdictions to participate in a program that grants federal immigration powers to state and local officials. It’s an endeavor that has identified more than 400,000 removable individuals. Currently, 32 law enforcement agencies from 16 states take part in the program.
“Aliens who engage in criminal conduct are priorities for arrest and removal and will often be encountered by state and local law enforcement officers during the course of their routine duties,” he said.
The second memo adds further details about how DHS will handle Trump’s other executive order on protecting the interior, also signed on Jan. 25. That includes, with certain exceptions, the deportation of all removable aliens.
Illegal aliens who have been convicted of, charged with or found committing a crime are subject to removal, Kelly said. So, too, are those who have abused assistance programs or misrepresented themselves before a government official.
“Criminal aliens have demonstrated their disregard for the rule of law and pose a threat to persons residing in the United States,” wrote Kelly in the memo on enforcing immigration laws. “As such, criminal aliens are a priority for removal.”