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The Trump administration’s new immigration enforcement memorandums outline striking and sweeping changes to immigration policy that will have a dire impact on the rights of immigrants and their families and hurt the communities they live in, Human Rights Watch said today, releasing a “question and answer” analysis. The US Department of Homeland Security released the memorandums on February 20, 2017.

Maya Casillas, 7, attends a vigil in response to President Donald Trump's executive orders relating to immigration, in Los Angeles, California, January 25, 2017. © 2017 Reuters

These new policies are designed to facilitate deportations of millions of people through expanded application of procedures that have been shown to harm long-term residents, their US citizen family members, and asylum seekers fleeing persecution and violence. They also take a “no holds barred” approach to enforce problematic laws in place since 1996 that have already caused enormous harm to US families. The Human Rights Watch analysis of the likely impact of these new enforcement policies is based on decades of research into the US immigration system and the operation of the 1996 laws.

“President Donald Trump recently suggested he may be open to reforming the US immigration system, but his enforcement memos indicate no interest in creating a more reasonable and humane system,” said Grace Meng, senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the memos promise the broadest and most draconian application of already harsh laws.”

As widely reported, the memos outline new enforcement priorities that essentially make every undocumented immigrant in the US an enforcement priority. The documents also indicate that the Trump administration may facilitate and fast-track the deportations of millions of people by expanding “expedited removal,” a procedure that boils down to immigration agents filling out and signing forms. Currently, expedited removal is applied to migrants apprehended within 100 miles of the border and within 14 days after they enter the US. As Human Rights Watch has documented, border agents’ application of expedited removal already results in human rights violations for Central Americans fleeing gang violence.

We have yet to see the full impact of Trump’s immigration policies, but the new DHS memos are a clear road-map to massive rights violations
Grace Meng

senior US researcher

The memos also take aim at asylum seekers, including women and children from Central America, calling for expanded detention, changes to the asylum application process, and stripping protections for child migrants traveling alone. They call for expansion of programs involving local police in immigration enforcement, which have been shown to increase the distrust of police in immigrant communities and racial profiling, neither of which facilitate increased public safety.

“We have yet to see the full impact of Trump’s immigration policies, but the new DHS memos are a clear road-map to massive rights violations,” Meng said. “If Trump is serious about protecting and improving US communities, he should develop policies that protect the rights of everyone in them.”

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