The Trump administration has laid out strict guidelines under a sweeping rewrite of immigration policies, a move that can massively expand the number of people detained and deported in the United States.
Any immigrant who is in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, will now be an enforcement priority, says a memo issued by US Homeland Security Department.
In other words, if an illegal immigrant is arrested for traffic violations or even shop-lifting, he will be targeted along with those convicted of more serious crimes.
According to an estimate, Over 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in US>
The memos have not changed the existing immigration laws but have toughened them. Earlier, only immigrants who were considered threat to national security or convicted of serious crimes or recent border-crossers faced deportation.
The new guidelines would not usher in mass deportations, but were designed to empower agents to enforce laws already on the books, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters.
“The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies,” Mr Spicer said.
Under the Obama administration guidance, immigrants whose only violation was being in the country illegally were generally left alone. Those immigrants fall into two categories: those who crossed the border without permission and those who overstayed their visas.
Crossing the border illegally is a criminal offense, and the new memos make clear that those who have done so are included in the broad list of enforcement priorities.
Overstaying a visa is a civil, not criminal, offense. Those who do so are not specifically included in the priority list but, under the memos, they are still more likely to face deportation than they had been before.