New Homeland Security Memos Call for Massive Detention and Other Harm to Immigrants

Stewart Immigrant Detention Center Source:

The Department of Homeland Security today issued implementation memos for the January executive order on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The new orders are summarized by the New York Immigration Coalition:

  • Makes mandatory detention the default for all immigrants suspected of an immigration violation
  • Mandates massive expansion of detention capacity
  • Points to but does not define significant expansion of expedited removal; definition to be posted in Federal Register as required by the statute
  • Makes virtually every undocumented immigrant a priority for arrest
  • Terminates all prosecutorial discretion guidance and memos except for DACA/DAPA since they will be on a separate track. Presumably this includes the memos prohibiting enforcement at sensitive locations, guidance protecting vulnerable populations from detention, etc.
  • Eviscerates parole authority
  • Orders the hiring of 5,000 additional Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and 10,000 additional ICE agents
  • Massive push to expand 287g including allowing CBP to enter into such agreements
  • Reinstitution of Secure Communities and termination of PEP
  • Directs CBP to develop a plan and begin construction of border wall
  • Triggers authority for removal to contiguous country while removal proceedings under way
  • Terminates classification/protections for Unaccompanied Minors if they have an undocumented parent in the U.S.
  • Eliminates Privacy Act protections for anyone who is not a Legal Permanent Resident

Over the next week I will write about these memos in detail, but I wanted to highlight a few of the worst aspects.


Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeps approximately 34,000 immigrants locked up in detention each night. Detention priorities exist because it is impossible to detain everyone who might be arrested. Under this order, the number of beds would have to be expanded to 200,000, a six-fold increase in detention and in expense, to detain everyone covered. Obviously this would mean a massive increase in contracts with the private prison industry. Currently, DHS spends $2 billion annually on detention. This expenditure would have to increase to $12-14 billion.

Most of that money would be spent to detain otherwise law abiding undocumented immigrants. Pretty much all of the dangerous felons ICE catches are already being detained, so the targets of the new detention policy will be undocumented workers, often people supporting a family that includes United States citizens.

Of course, the problem for the Trump administration is that executive orders and implementation memos cannot be used to increase spending. While the memo calls for massive expansion of detention, that cannot happen without Congressional approval. In the meantime, though, expect to see more abuses at detention centers and increased stock prices for the private prison industry.

Expedited Removal

The memos also call for an expansion of “expedited removal.” This is a program that deports some undocumented immigrants without affording them normal due process rights. In the past it has led to some serious abuses even in its currently more limited form. The memos are unclear as to the specifics of this change.

Deputizing Police as ICE Agents

The memos authorize the expansion of the 287g program which allows local police to be deputized as immigration agents. This creates an environment in which immigrants are afraid to report crimes to the police because they are afraid of being arrested for immigration violations. The distinction between the police and ICE needs to be maintained if immigrant communities are to trust the cops.

These are really disturbing new policies that are being put into effect immediately. These will harm immigrants and refugees and disrupt and impoverish the communities in which they live.