Immigration Reform Executive Action: Border Security Memorandums Call for New Policies, More Border Patrol Agents
President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions included deportation deferment for approximately 4.9 million undocumented immigrants, but have also ordered for increased border security.
The immigration executive actions on increasing border security will be handled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its three federal immigration agencies: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson published a memorandum for the three federal immigration agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on new strategies to handle undocumented immigrants.
According to the American Immigration Council (AIC), the executive action "provides greater direction" for agencies to focus on national security threats including individuals with criminal convictions and recent unlawful entrants.
"DHS is replacing the controversial Secure Communities program in favor of a new model of federal/state/local cooperation that focuses on convicted criminals rather than all unauthorized immigrants encountered by local authorities," noted AIC, adding the DHS plans on developing new task forces in collaboration with its multiple agencies for the southern U.S. border.
The executive action to strengthen the border includes clarification on DHS procedures and policy on prioritizing deportations of individuals, which includes more opportunities for undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S., particularly those living in the country for several years with no crimes committed.
The American Immigration Lawyers' Association (AILA) noted the executive action also called for Congress to provide funding for 20,000 more border patrol agents "without providing justification for the need for such services."
The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) will be established and replace Secure Communities, which went into effect in 2008 and allowed fingerprints to be automatically shared by federal and state immigration enforcement with the DHS. With PEP, however, local law enforcement partnerships with federal immigration officials will continue.
Johnson also instructed for three Joint Task Forces with elements from the CBP, ICE, USCG and USCIS. The Joint Task Forces will be tasked with conducting operations with six identified objectives including reducing terror risk against the U.S., combating transnational criminal organizations, preventing exploitation of legal flows of entry ports, countering illegal flows at maritime ports of entry, managing lawful flows of people and good transit and to "disincentivize" illegal border behavior.
"Customs and Border Protection is the nation's largest and most dangerous police force and lacks proper oversight and accountability. The Obama Administration and Congress still need to rein in this out-of-control agency, and our government - namely Congress - needs to once and for all reform an immigration system that is out of date and outmoded," said American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke, noting the ACLU applauds Obama's relief for millions of undocumented immigrants and their families.
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