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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Laura Vannote

I think a lot of people including myself don't understand this issue. Thank you for explaining the difference between Obama and Trump policy.


During Operation Wetback(Eisenhower administration) Latinos were rounded up and deported regardless of citizenship. So this is not about who is legal and who isn't, this bs is motivated purely by racial bias and it is truly unconstitutional. CBP agents now think that they can legally harass people on domestic flights. That is not a power granted to them by their enabling act and yet they believe that it is ok to violate the 4th Amendment rights of citizens and those with Visas and Green Cards. Even if someone undocumented was on that flight they have 4th Amendment rights. But it is impossible to get on a flight without some documentation. So this isn't about undocumented immigrants at all. It is abuse of power, creating chaos and fear...that is what this is about.


True story: ICE came to my door last year, sure that I was harboring a criminal immigrant. I am white, educated and they did not have a warrant, plus it was before the Trump administration, so they went away after I convinced them they had been given bad information. The ICE story was shady, because they told me the person had used my mailing address, but then later another agent said a neighbor had told them the person was at my house. It was scary. They were armed and had my house surrounded pretty fast. They had the wrong address. It seems to me these new policies will result in situations like mine going wrong easily.


There are many industries that can only survive by using migrant workers. Trump and his totalitarian regime have been supported by a populace that are too lazy and/or too stupid to see this.


#maga isn't just about clamping down on illegal immigration. Review your notes on Bannon. This regime is anti-immigrant, period., the rationale being immigrants keep lower paid " American" ( white?) workers from getting jobs. Bannon and his toadies are either liars or hysterical extremists. Either way, not the kind of people you want issuing executive decrees. Have you called your member of Congress today?


What is legal and what is illegal is not the issue, for those who feel this is a sound argument. Are American businesses and middle class Americans who hire nannies and gardeners with brown skin being taken from their homes and questioned, detained or arrested for breaking the law? Should they all be rounded up and questioned? How many of these law breakers are out there? We have the names of the businesses and the owners. If illegal activity is the worry let's get the crooks who used desperate people to make a profit or babysit. The law is the law and they broke it.


Thank you for the humor. Come on down... spew your tripe face to face. Trump won. Get over it. Feckless Hillery lost. Get over it.


Law enforcement = Human misery - please? We either support our laws or we cease to be a civil country. How can the ACLU talk about civil liberties when your very actions are violating the civil liberties of legal citizens of this country. You want "no borders", protection for all illegals even the criminals, and your fighting for the right to compound the problem by bringing in more. Common sense would ask what team are you guys playing for?

CC Martini

1. If someone breaks the law, they are subject to the consequences.
2. The US is not breaking up families or putting children in foster homes. Their parents have done that by breaking the law. They are the ones responsible for the "misery".

As a recent graduate with a MS. in Social Work, I cannot find a job in my field because I don't speak Spanish. The offices for Food Stamps, Medicaid etc. are full of people who cannot speak English.


What about the US outsourcing jobs to underdeveloped countries to take advantage of the lack of laws protecting their environment and its people? That should be against the law and the US should be held accountable. Perhaps a consequence of this is their people escaping the inhumane working conditions and/or contaminated water from our companies, etc. and is a reason their people have fled their country and have come to ours. I know I would, wouldn't you? And the Food Stamps, Medicaid, Welfare do not provide anything to anyone without a social security number and the workers are usually bilingual, not just Spanish speaking. Spanish speaking people nor any particular group are not to blame for you not finding a job. Maybe we should focus on education and teaching our children more than one language, as do many other countries around the world. Instead, we continue to focus on things we cannot control or have less control of.


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