The order appears to go beyond the Trump administration’s aim of deporting immigrants who posed a public safety threat and may explain a marked increase on immigration arrests.
The head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit in charge of deportations directed officers to take action against all undocumented immigrants they may cross paths with, regardless of criminal histories. The guidance appears to go beyond the Trump administration’s publicly stated aims, and some advocates say it explains a marked increase in immigration arrests, ProPublica reports. In a February memo, Matthew Albence, a career official who heads the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) division of ICE, informed his 5,700 deportation officers that, “effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.”
The Trump administration has emphasized that its priority was deporting immigrants who posed a public safety threat. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said this year that immigration officers “may” initiate enforcement actions against any undocumented person they encountered. An ICE spokesperson Albence’s directive did not represent a break with Kelly’s stated aims, and was consistent with agency policies. Sarah Saldaña, who left in January as head of ICE for the Obama administration, said the wording in the memo would have real consequences for undocumented immigrants. “When you use the word ‘will’ instead of ‘may’ you are taking it a step further,” she said. “This is an important directive and people at ERO are bound by this directive unless someone above Matt Albence comes back and says, ‘You went too far.’ I don’t think you are going to find that person in this administration.”