Trump administration directs Border Patrol, ICE to expand deportations

It’s still unclear what the sweeping measures mean for state-based immigration efforts in Texas. The Legislature is currently debating a bill to outlaw “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Texas, the term commonly assigned to local entities that don’t enforce immigration laws or hand over undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. Since the November election, lawmakers have expressed hope that the new administration would make good on Trump’s promises to secure the border but have continued plans to focus on the issue in Austin while Washington fine-tunes its efforts.

Immigrant rights groups immediately blasted the news Tuesday as a mass-deportation campaign that goes against stated promises to only concentrate on criminal aliens.

“Now they are openly admitting that they ‘will not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,’” said Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigrant rights group, in an statement. “These memos amount to an instruction manual for the coast-to-coast, fast-track deportation of everyone in the United States without papers, no matter how long they’ve been here, how strong their family ties, and how much they contribute.”

The memo also calls for immediately hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, asks Homeland Security to identify all sources of federal aid to Mexico over the last five years and calls for the agency to identify and allocate all sources of available funding for the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of a border wall. Under the new guidelines, all undocumented people approved for deportation will be returned to the country from which they entered illegally instead of where they originally came from. That means Mexico will see an influx of immigrants from Central America and elsewhere who used the country as an entry point into the United States.

On Monday, ProPublica, citing former Mexican and American officials, reported on how that policy shift could create new security issues for the region “as authorities in each country push unwanted migrants back and forth.”

Visiting Austin on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, defended Trump’s actions so far on immigration law enforcement and downplayed their scope. 

I think, quite frankly, this is not a very large departure from the previous administration because they were, again, prioritizing criminal aliens,” McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters at the Texas Capitol.

And so I think you’re going to see more of an emphasis on this, and you’re going to see more of an attempt to get people who are in this country, who are not acting in good faith, who are a danger to our public safety, out.”

Julián Aguilar reports on politics and border affairs from the Texas-Mexico border. Patrick Svitek contributed to this report. This story is published courtesy of the Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.