President Trump Is Beginning to Build the Apparatus of Human Misery He Promised During the Campaign

Two memos signed by Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Monday are a grim blueprint for President Trump's promised mass deportations. As implementation instructions for his January executive orders on interior and border immigration enforcement, they’re an operating manual for unprecedentedly vicious ICE and CBP crackdowns. 

Heartless and cruel, the memos promise changes that will shred due process and propose to expand an already enormous federal deportation force by 15,000 new agents.  Fortunately, Congress has budget control that can stop some of Trump’s terrible personnel and policy choices, including his border wall. And as with Trump’s Muslim ban, the ACLU will fight to block these memos’ unconstitutional efforts to detain and deport millions of human beings.

We think the last administration got a lot wrong about immigration enforcement — it’s ludicrous to say that President Obama’s record deportation numbers were some kind of mirage — but the Trump administration wants to compound the cruelty. In fact, the Trump-Kelly memos aim to destroy three existing pillars of compassionate, constitutional immigration enforcement:

1) Discard Humane Discretion

The memos abandon any genuine attempt to prioritize immigration enforcement. Virtually every  immigrant eligible for deportation — including almost all of the 11 million people in the United States without authorization — is now a target for detention and aggressive removal proceedings.It doesn’t matter whether that immigrant has lived in the United States for a day or a decade. It doesn’t matter whether she has a serious criminal record or not. And it doesn’t matter whether strong equities exist like community contributions; extensive family ties, including U.S. citizen children; U.S. military service; or exceptional educational achievements and potential. Last week’s powerful Day Without Immigrants gave a sense of the devastating economic, humanitarian, and practical effects of banishing our neighbors, classmates, co-parishioners, relatives, and friends.

2) Dismantle Due Process

The Trump-Kelly memos try to eviscerate immigrants’ rights to full and fair hearings to determine whether the government’s attempts to remove them are supported by the facts and the law. Trump and Kelly threaten a massive expansion of shortcuts to deportation like expedited removal, which allows an ICE or CBP official, rather than an impartial judge, to have the only say on an immigrant’s future. Every immigrant deserves a real day in court and access to legal counsel to make their case, both of which are imperiled by the memos’ medieval prescription of detention for all, regardless of a particular immigrant’s flight risk or public safety threat.

Mandatory imprisonment of immigrants who don't need to be jailed, like asylum-seekers, primary caregivers, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions makes no fiscal or moral sense and is fundamentally contrary to due process. All mass detention accomplishes, besides needlessly tearing families apart and sending many kids to foster care, is a lucrative bonanza for substandard private-prison contractors.

3) Demolish the Protective Wall Between Immigration Enforcement and Police

The Trump-Kelly memos encourage state and local police, including those with records of racial profiling and brutality, to become immigration agents. They are a return to failed programs ended by the Obama administration that intertwined local police and immigration enforcement, which is a federal responsibility. The ACLU and allies won important legal victories against state “show me your papers” legislation like Arizona’s SB1070, and the federal government terminated involvement of biased police agencies like Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s in immigration enforcement. 

Yet the Trump-Kelly memos want to make every cop an immigration agent, ignoring the Department of Justice and federal courts’ devastating findings that Sheriff Joe and others acted unconstitutionally in racially profiling and otherwise abusing the very public they’re sworn to protect. The memos resurrect illegal and unwise programs like Secure Communities, which courts have held flouts the Fourth Amendment by detaining individuals without a judge’s probable cause determination, and 287(g), which deputizes state and local police as immigration agents. These programs only hurt public safety by making immigrants and their families scared to report crimes, like domestic violence, that they suffer or witness.

The Trump administration has sent another gust of fear throughout the land with a mass deportation agenda that is badly out of step with fairness, due process, and liberty. Its attacks on civil liberties and civil rights affect not only immigrants but all who will suffer abuses at the hands of a vast immigration-enforcement complex the memos aspire to create. It will be defeated in courts and communities from sea to sea.

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First of all, how can anyone refer to human beings as illegal/legal, alien, immigrant, citizen/non-citizen, etc.? Aren't we all human beings? Being born in the US automatically gives someone "legal status"? So, being born here in the US has saved me from not having to worry about being deported? It has saved me from having to go through whatever it is those "illegals" have to do to get citizenship? Phew! Lucky me! If this nonsense continues, I'm going to be stuck here in the US with a bunch of ignorant haters who forgot that Columbus DID NOT discover America. I don't understand why people don't question the actual process of becoming a "legal US human being". Are applications reviewed by a team? One person? Does it get reviewed, individually by multiple people over time? What about the human beings that have applied for it? Where are they from? Does it matter if it's a wealthy country, poor country, Christian country, white skinned country? I wonder how much race, ethnicity, class, status, sex, gender, etc. play a part in determining the outcome of the application status to approve becoming a "legal US human being". I wonder how many human beings from Asian countries have applied for US citizenship and were granted vs. those that were not. I wonder how many human beings of Mexican descent who have applied for US citizenship from Canada and were granted vs. those who have applied from Mexico. It seems to me that the real focus should be on the system and process of becoming a "legal US human being" instead of immigrant vs. non-immigrant, legal vs. illegal, right way vs wrong way. We should be focusing on the process itself, and not be afraid to admit that it has been racist, stereotypical, judgmental, prejudice and unfair, especially to those of color. It might be a good start by calling us all Americans and allow ourselves the opportunity to stop subconsciously stereotyping, to stop passing judgments, stop being racist, etc. with our fellow Americans by no longer revealing our race, heritage, ancestry, culture, ethnicity, etc. before calling each other "American". My ancestors came here as immigrants so if we can't agree to start calling human beings living in America just "American" then white people (including myself) should be called "Priviledged American" because that's what we are.


Have you noticed that the most visible deportations have been women? It makes me think that Trump is intentionally getting rid of women first so that they cannot have children, who would be American citizens at birth.


Have you noticed that the most visible deportations have been women? It makes me think that Trump is intentionally getting rid of women first so that they cannot have children, who would be American citizens at birth.


Maybe people would take you more seriously if you focused on the real source of human misery and the grim realities facing Americans....such as this one


They r illegal no matter how long they have been here. Them coming here n staying here illegally is like telling the people who did it the right way that they r fools . How do u suppose that makes the legal immigrants feel , since the left is all about feelings n equality. Where's the equality for the people who spent forever jumping thru hoops to become citizens just to watch illegals stay n basically flip them the bird. What about them?


Imigration law does not define an "illegal" state. They may be undocumented. They might be unwanted, that is for a court to decide. These new directives would taken that due-process away, and that is unconstitutional.

Francisca Rogers

What will happen to their children born in the US? Will they be deported as well? Who will take care of them? Just plain inhumanity ! ACLU please help these children be their voice.

Gwen Pauloski

I'm with you. The secret detention of women and children is my biggest concern of many. In Texas, secret warehousing of innocent people in substandard prisons is guaranteed. Our for-profit-prison industry is in decline. The rates of corruption and inmate abuse in TDCJ is criminal. With ICE detention, we don't even have the protections of the Byzantine prison system. I want to be able to visit and bear witness and serve ICE detainees just as I would be able to do with the prison population. The secret detention system HAS to be illegal.


I am not surprise to see here the biggest opponents to immigrants being effectively themselves first generation immigrants.It's like I finally can seat at the table and eat a piece of cake and that bastard is hungry and may be I have to share my piece with him.But be assured the cake is big and should feed everyone if we had just a trace of humanity in ourselves.


"I am not surprise to see here the biggest opponents to immigrants being effectively themselves first generation immigrants."

Sometimes immigrants can sense their own vulnerability to racist trends and hope to convince the bully on the block that they're with him, so that he'll spare them. It's understandable, but profoundly misguided.


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