Homeland Security memos outline priorities for ICE, border control

Posted at 6:46 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 19:08:59-05

The battle over illegal immigrants reached a fervent pitch Tuesday with the release of a pair of memos, which outline the priorities for ICE and the Border Patrol to enforce the nation's immigration laws.

The memos, released by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, could signal an increase in the country's deportations, critics say. 

While local leaders tap danced around calling Baltimore a sanctuary city, it's clear police officers are too busy fighting crime to hunt down illegal immigrants. 

"I've already said that's there job. That's not what we're doing," mayor Catherine Pugh said. "We're focused on welcoming people to Baltimore. Baltimore is a welcoming city. We're instructed our police department not to have anything to do with that."

However, the Homeland Security Secretary's instruction appears to back up President Trump's campaign pledges to deport illegal immigrants and build a wall to secure the nation's border with Mexico. It calls for the department to hire 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents to keep people out and addresses the terms for deporting those who are already in the country illegally. 

Representative Elijah Cummings released the following statement Tuesday in response to the Trump administration's mass deportation plan, 

"I strongly condemn President Trump’s cruel mass deportation plan.  For those who held out hope for a compassionate, evidence-based immigration policy, the President’s executive orders on immigration enforcement and these implementation memos confirm their worst fears.  These actions represent a terrifying shift in our nation’s immigration policy, and they fly in the face of our most fundamental American values.  The President’s actions represent a dangerous approach to immigration that will break up families, incite fear, and threaten the public safety of our communities by driving some of our most vulnerable populations into the shadows.  This is an inhumane, irresponsible, and unacceptable approach to immigration enforcement.  We must not let mass deportation policies become our new normal.”

Critics fear it steps well beyond seeking out violent criminals and would even enlist local police to round up people en masse.

"I'm extremely confident that many of these policies are going to be struck down in court. We are a country that does not believe in rounding people up and targeting certain groups of individuals," said Brendan Greene with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

In a bid to calm fears, White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated Tuesday that those people who are in this country and pose a threat to public safety or have committed crimes will be the first to go. 

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