The Wall & Sanctuary Cities: Trump's Executive Actions Explained

Thursday, January 26, 2017

 

We've received a number of questions since President Trump issued two executive orders about immigration yesterday. Much of how these presidential commands will play out is still uncertain. A few things are sure, however:

 

1. The executive actions prioritize the deportation of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. If you fall into this category, please consider meeting with a qualified immigration attorney who can advise you on your circumstances. In some cases, criminal records can be improved. 

 

2. The executive actions don't alter existing immigration laws or eliminate benefits. People with green cards or whose applications for immigration benefits are currently pending have little cause to worry.

 

3. So far, none of the executive actions have addressed DACA, the program created by President Obama's 2012 executive action to protect immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthdays. 

 

Order #1: "Enhancing Public Safety"

 

This order is meant to ramp up the enforcement of current immigration laws. 

 

Prioritize the deportation of criminals. The action states that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should focus its removal efforts on illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, regardless of whether they've been charged or convicted for them. It also instructs DHS to prioritize the deportations of immigrants who have engaged in fraud, abused public benefits, ignored prior deportation orders, or are considered by immigration officers to "pose a risk to public safety or national security."

 

Hire 10,000 more Department of Homeland Security officers. This is "subject to the availability of appropriations," meaning how many officers are hired (and how quickly they're hired) will depend on how much money DHS receives from Congress. The process of appropriating money begins when the President submits a budget plan in February and is typically completed by October, though it may take longer. (Read more about appropriations here.) Border patrol agents make between $40,000 and $66,000 per year.

 

Work with state and local law officials to enforce immigration laws. After 4 weeks of training in South Carolina, qualified police officers and sheriff's deputies are eligible to enforce immigration laws. Since 1996, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has partnered with 36 local law enforcement agencies. Most of the current partnerships are in southern states. No state or local agencies in Indiana or Illinois are currently partnered with ICE through this program. The executive action calls for more partnerships. 

 

Prevent sanctuary cities from receiving federal grants. Sanctuary cities are places, such as Chicago, IL or Oakland, CA, that make life easier for immigrants by not inquiring about their immigration statuses. There is no authoritative list of sanctuary cities or legal definition of the term, but Trump's executive action instructs the Department of Homeland Security to make one. Leaders of many cities have already vowed to fight this part of the action in court and/or to continue their efforts to support immigrants by finding resources elsewhere.  

 

Establish an office for the victims of crimes committed by removable aliens. When Trump announced yesterday's executive orders, he did so in a room with people who had been victims, or knew people who had been victims, of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

 

Order #2: "Border Security"

 

This executive action officially calls for the construction of Trump's long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The wall is defined as "a contiguous, physical wall or other similarly secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier." Many of the details of the project are left to be determined. 

 

To build this wall, the DHS is to:

- plan, design, and construct it

- project how much it will cost to maintain the wall in years to come

- create a comprehensive study of the southern border in 180 days

- open more detention facilities along the border

- assign immigration judges to serve in those facilities

- make provisions to identify genuine asylum applicants and process unaccompanied minors appropriately

- terminate "catch and release" (a policy that allows people detained at the border to be released until their hearing with an immigration judge)

- reevaluate when the power to give parole should be used

- hire 5,000 more border patrol agents

 

The order also gives all agencies within the executive branch 30 days to prepare a report of the annual federal aid they've given to Mexico during the last five years. 

 

Like the previous order, this one calls for increased partnerships between state and local law enforcement and ICE. 

 

About Executive Orders

 

An executive order is a document issued by the President of the United States. It explains how powers within the executive branch should be used. The agencies that enforce immigration are within the executive branch. 

 

The legislative branch (Congress) can affect how executive orders are implemented. In the case of yesterday's orders, Congress will be responsible for providing the funds to the executive agencies. Congress can also pass laws that change the structure of the immigration system.

 

The judicial branch (the courts) can rule on whether a president's executive actions are legal if they are challenged.  

 

You can read the full text of the president's executive orders at WhiteHouse.gov. 

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