The White House has issued tough guidelines to widen the net for deporting illegal immigrants from the United States, and speed up their removal.
Undocumented immigrants arrested for traffic violations or shop-lifting will be targeted along with those convicted of more serious crimes.
The memos do not alter immigration laws, but take a much tougher approach towards enforcing existing measures.
There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) new blueprint leaves in place Obama-era protections for immigrants who entered the US illegally as children.
However, it expands the more restricted guidance issued under the previous administration, which focused its policy on immigrants convicted of serious crimes, threats to national security or those who had recently crossed the border.
Image source Wikimedia
The DHS plans to hire an extra 10,000 agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and 5,000 more border patrol officers to enforce the new guidance.
During his eight years in office, President Barack Obama instructed immigration officials to focus deportation efforts on undocumented immigrants who were convicted of serious crimes or recent arrivals captured near the US border.
President Trump’s immigration order marks a sharp break with those policies. Instead – according to the DHS implementation memos – the Trump administration essentially will “prioritize” the deportation of almost all undocumented immigrants, everywhere.
The DHS’s list of prioritized “removable aliens” is so broad as to include just about every class of undocumented immigrant – with only a carve-out for individuals who entered the US as children.
All this will require more money and manpower – and the Trump administration is going to ask Congress for the former and go on a hiring spree to address the latter. Local and state law-enforcement officials will also be allowed to arrest unauthorized immigrants.
While President Barack Obama aggressively enforced immigration law and ramped up deportations in some areas and at some times, there were notable instances where he de-emphasized action. In the Trump era immigration authorities are now being given the power to make a sea-to-sea, border-to-border push.
The two memos released on February 21 by the agency suggest individuals apprehended in the US would need to prove that they have been in the country continuously for two years.
Otherwise, agents could expedite their removal with no court proceeding.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wrote in one of the memos: “The surge of illegal immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States.”
His memo also includes instructions to enforce an existing provision of the US Immigration and Nationality Act that allows authorities to send some people caught illegally at the border back to Mexico, regardless of where they are from.
It is unclear whether the US has authority to force Mexico to accept foreigners.
The DHS guidance is a blueprint to implement executive orders that President Trump signed on January 25, days after taking office.
The new guidelines did not explain how President Trump’s border wall would be funded and where undocumented immigrants apprehended in the crackdown would be detained.
The memos instruct agents to “allocate all available resources to expand their detention capabilities and capacities”, but Congress would probably need to allocate money to build new detention centers.
Donald Trump’s immigration policies have prompted protests on both sides of the border. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in more than a dozen Mexican cities last week to protest against President Trump’s plan for a border wall.
The US Department of Homeland Security has avoided a partial shutdown as Congress passed a one-week funding extension, hours before a midnight deadline.
The House voted 357-60 in favor of the short-term bill after it had been passed in the Senate.
President Barack Obama, who said he would back a short-term deal to avert a shutdown, signed it shortly afterwards.
It ensures the department’s 250,000 employees will be paid while a longer-term funding agreement is discussed.
The two-thirds majority vote was reached about two hours before the midnight deadline.
Earlier, Republicans had rejected a similar three-week extension after provisions against President Barack Obama’s immigration plan were dropped.
The one-week deal was backed by a majority of Democrats despite many of them voting against the earlier bill in the hope that a longer-term deal could be agreed.
The move came shortly after President Barack Obama had spoken by phone to Democratic leaders in a bid to avert the partial department closure.
The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for securing US borders, airports and coastal waters.
About 200,000 “essential” department employees would have continued to work without pay if the agency’s funding had not been secured.
Some Republicans had wanted to use the funding of the department, which includes immigration officials, as a bargaining chip to force President Barack Obama to end policies on immigration.
In November 2014, Barack Obama used his executive powers to protect about five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Republicans say President Barack Obama overstepped his powers in doing so.
A separate ruling by a federal judge has blocked those policies from starting while a lawsuit by more than two dozen states goes forward.
Some Republicans senators had expressed a desire to fight the executive actions in the courts, rather than threaten the department’s funding.
On February 26, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urged Congress to pass full funding.
“A short-term continuing resolution exacerbates the uncertainty for my workforce and puts us back in the same position, on the brink of a shutdown just days from now,” Jeh Johnson said.
Last week, the White House said President Barack Obama would prefer a full funding bill but would sign a short-term measure to prevent a shutdown.
US Homeland Security has urged Americans to be vigilant following a terror threat to Western shopping centers, including Mall of America.
Secretary Jeh Johnson said he took the threat by the Somali-based group al-Shabab seriously.
In a video, al-Shabab urged followers to carry out attacks on shopping centers in the US, Canada and the UK.
Al-Shabab was responsible for the 2013 attack on Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people.
Jeh Johnson told CNN that the threat was part of “a new phase” of terrorism in which attacks would increasingly come from “independent actors in their homelands”.
“Anytime a terrorist organization calls for an attack on a specific place, we’ve got to take that seriously,” he said.
In the video, a man with a British-sounding accent and full face covering calls on supporters of al-Shabab to attack “American or Jewish-owned” Western shopping centers.
He specifically mentions Minnesota’s Mall of America – the second-largest US shopping centre – and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall, as well as London’s Oxford Street and the UK capital’s two Westfield shopping centers.
Co-ordinates for the various targets were listed on the screen as they were described.
Both Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall have issued statements saying they were implementing additional security measures.
Minnesota is home to a large Somali population and a Minnesota man was indicted last week on charges of conspiring to support Islamic State (ISIS).
Police and security services in Canada, France and Denmark have been on high alert recently following attacks by so-called “home-grown” terrorists inspired by groups such as al-Shabab and ISIS.
The US Department of Homeland Security has warned that it believes hackers are trying to make use of the Heartbleed bug.
It advised the public to change passwords for sites affected by the flaw once they had confirmed they were secure.
However, an official added that there had not been any reported attacks or malicious incidents.
The alert comes as several makers of net hardware and software revealed some of their products had been compromised.
Affected equipment includes network routers and switches, video conferencing kit, phone call software, firewalls and apps that let workers remotely access company data.
The encryption flaw can potentially be exploited to steal passwords and secret keys used to protect computer users.
Experts say home kit is less at risk.
The Department of Homeland Security advised the public to change passwords for sites affected by the flaw once they had confirmed they were secure
There had been reports that domestic home networking equipment – such as Wi-Fi routers – might also make use of unpatched versions of the OpenSSL cryptographic library used to digitally scramble sensitive data.
However, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory said he thought this would be a relatively rare occurrence.
News of the Heartbleed bug emerged on Monday when Google Security and Codenomicon – a Finnish security company – revealed that a flaw had existed in OpenSSL for more than two years.
This had made it possible to impersonate services and users, and potentially eavesdrop on data communications.
The flaw only exposed 64K of data at a time, but a malicious party could theoretically make repeated grabs until they had the information they wanted.
The website set up to publicize the danger noted that it was possible to carry out such an attack “without leaving a trace”, making it impossible to know for sure if criminals or cyberspies had taken advantage of it.
Media reports initially focused on the risk of logging into compromised online services such as webmail, cloud storage and banking, with some – but not all – companies suggesting users should reset their passwords.
Warnings from companies including Cisco, Juniper, Fortinet, Red Hat and Watchguard Technologies that some of their internet products are compromised may now place the spotlight on the corporate sector.
The US government has said that it was working with third-party organizations “to determine the potential vulnerabilities to computer systems that control essential systems – like critical infrastructure, user-facing and financial systems”.
Meanwhile, officials suggested members of the public should “closely monitor your email accounts, bank accounts, social media accounts and other online assets for irregular or suspicious activity, such as abnormal purchases or messages”.
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