Officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are exploring the processes and practices needed by officers to enforce President Trump’s immigration priorities. Even as Congress begins to wrestle with immigration reform, the department is actively exploring internal methodologies around enforcement and border security to more closely align with the president’s priorities.
The effort largely involves exploring adjustment options in how DHS implements immigration procedures, “including closing loopholes in our ability to enforce immigration laws and eliminating the magnets for illegal immigration,” according to DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke,
Among the policies under scrutiny by DHS officials are protections for unaccompanied minors, speedier deportation proceedings and a tightening up of visa programs as a means of limiting legal immigration to the United States, according to one report.
While changes in the implementation of various policies are under discussion, “any of them could change or fall by the wayside.” Still, the department’s activity around policy implementation “illustrate the extent to which the administration could attempt to dramatically change immigration in the U.S. through unilateral executive action.”
Where unaccompanied minors are concerned, for example, DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are considering redefining the classification of those immigrants who are under 18 years of age in cases where the children are reunited with parents or guardians in the United States. While current policy gives these children protections from proceedings around expedited removal and provides allowances for the pursuit of asylum cases, DHS and DOJ are considering eliminating the protections– “a sea change in the way the 2008 law granting those protections has been interpreted.”
But beyond policy interpretation is a fear around how DHS officials execute immigration law. While U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now conducts required interviews for all green card applicants coming to the United States on employment and refugee grounds, the agency plans to roll out the required interview process for other immigrant categories over time. The interview process adds a “substantial and potentially lengthy hurdle to achieving legal permanent residency.”
For Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney who worked previously as an Obama Administration DOJ official, a potential slowdown carries far-reaching ramifications. “If the wait time for naturalizations increases by three months, USCIS can naturalize 25 percent fewer people per year,” he says.
The goal in reexamining DHS policy centers on those elements that will assist DHS “law enforcement personnel with what they need to enforce our immigration laws, secure our border and protect American communities across this country,” according to Duke’s statement.