The Donald Trump administration issued tough new orders on Tuesday for a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigrants, placing nearly all of the country's 11 million undocumented foreigners in its crosshairs. The orders sent shivers through US immigrant communities, where millions of people who have spent years building families and livelihoods in the country, most of them from Mexico and Central America, were seriously threatened with deportation for the first time in decades.
Nearly 300,000 Indian-Americans are likely to be impacted by the plan. 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, according to Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly. That could include people arrested for shoplifting or minor offences — or simply having crossed the border illegally.
Trump has laid the groundwork for potentially deporting millions of undocumented immigrants by issuing new guidance that drastically broadens the ways in which federal immigration laws should be enforced. "The department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," the department of homeland security (DHS) said in an enforcement memo.
"Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws," it said.
The DHS has issued two enforcement memos, which among other things, tighten deportation of illegal immigrants.
The emphasis is on criminal aliens, though, but opens up the door for others too. Indian-Americans as per unofficial figures account for nearly 300,000 illegal aliens.
According to the memo, the DHS secretary has the authority to apply expedited removal provisions to aliens who have not been admitted or paroled into the US, who are inadmissible, and who have not been continuously physically present in the US for the two-year period immediately prior to the determination of their inadmissibility, so that such aliens are immediately removed unless the alien is an unaccompanied minor, intends to apply for asylum or has a fear of persecution or torture in their home country, or claims to have lawful immigration status.
The memorandum said when illegal aliens apprehended do not pose a risk of a subsequent illegal entry, returning them to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived, pending the outcome of removal proceedings, saves the government detention and adjudication resources for other priority aliens.
Indian-Americans, who as per an unofficial count account for nearly 300,000 illegal aliens are likely to be greatly impacted by this. The Trump administration's order overturns Obama administration's decision to allow spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in that country. According to The Economic Times, 90 percent of Indian technology workers use H-1B visas.
According to the memo, the DHS Secretary has the authority to apply expedited removal provisions to aliens who have not been admitted or paroled into the US, who are inadmissible, and who have not been continuously physically present in the US for the two-year period immediately prior to the determination of their inadmissibility, so that such aliens are immediately removed unless the alien is an unaccompanied minor, intends to apply for asylum or has a fear of persecution or torture in their home country, or claims to have lawful immigration status.
The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or Raise Act, introduced by Republican senator Tom Cotton and David Perdue from the Democratic party is aimed at altering the US immigration system to significantly reduce the number of foreigners admitted to the country without a skills-based visa. Earlier in February, two top US senators had proposed a legislation to cut the number of legal immigrants to the US by half within a decade.
The bill was proposed to reduce the number of green card or legal permanent residency issued every year from currently about a million to half a million. Now, that the bill is passed and has the support of the Trump administration, will have a major impact on hundreds and thousands of Indian Americans who are currently painfully waiting to get their green cards on employment-based categories.
Notably, the current wait period of an Indian to get a green card varies from 10 years to 35 years and this could increase if the proposed bill becomes a law. The bill however does not focus on H-1B visas. Cotton argued that the growth in legal immigration in recent decades had led to a "sharp decline in wages for working Americans" and that the bill represented an effort to move the US "to a more merit-based system like Canada and Australia".
"It's time our immigration system started working for American workers," Cotton said. The Raise Act would lower overall immigration to 6,37,960 in its first year and to 5,39,958 by its tenth year, a 50 percent reduction from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015.
The Trump administration memos replace narrower guidance focusing on immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes, are considered threats to national security or are recent border crossers.
Rights groups labelled the move a "witch hunt," warning that mass deportations would damage families with deep roots in the United States and hurt the economy. But Kelly, who issued the new orders in two memos, said they were necessary to address a problem that has "overwhelmed" government resources. "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 DHS has issued two enforcement memos, which among other things, tightens deportation of illegal immigrants.
The emphasis is on criminal aliens, though, but opens up the door for others too.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Feb 22, 2017 15:57 PM