Trump administration widens net for deportable immigrants who were “low priority”

The federal government widened its reach for the arrest and deportation of undocumented immigrants in two memos issued Tuesday, while California leaders continue to scramble to create some protections for those who may get arrested.

A bill by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León to prevent local and state law enforcement officers from engaging in immigration enforcement has won approval from the Senate Public Safety Committee. He’s taken on the fight against enforcement and deportations of those the federal government had considered “low-priority” before President Trump’s latest executive orders.

“It is now clear the Trump Administration is not concerned with public safety, they are only focused on ripping hard-working men, women, and children from their families and communities. Mass deportations will not make us safer, instead they will simply undermine our state’s economy,” de León said in a statement after a spate of immigration raids.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the series of operations across the country last week that resulted in the detention of 680 people, including 161 in Southern California.

Under the guideline memos issued today, serious criminals are still a priority, but officers and agents are encouraged to detain and deport any person they encounter who is in the country illegally, regardless of criminal record or the lack thereof. The only group exempt from the order are youth who entered the country illegally as children and who are part of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—unless they have a criminal record. The memos from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also encourage enforcement against those considered “deportable,” including green card and visa holders who have committed crimes or violations that would put their status in jeopardy.

The agency says it is simply enforcing laws already on the books and addressing what the administration considers a national security vulnerability. Supporters of tougher enforcement say the guidance is much needed so immigration enforcers can do their jobs completely. The memos also outline the intention to hire 10,000 more immigration officers.

“We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination,” a Homeland Security official told reporters on a conference call, speaking only on condition of anonymity. “This is not intended to produce mass roundups, mass deportations.”

Last month during his State of the State speech, Gov. Brown said: “Let me be clear.  We will defend everybody—every man, woman and child—who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.”

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