The Trump administration is not planning mass deportations in which immigration officials hunt down illegal immigrants, round them up and immediately send them out of the country, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told reporters Wednesday.
“You have to understand that we are not going out and doing mass deportations,” Kelly said after meeting with Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales. “We have laws that I must follow, so we will be looking primarily at criminal offenders first.”
“There will be no mass roundups,” Kelly added. “When we do take someone into custody they’re then put into the American legal justice system — that’s the courts — and the courts will decide what happens to them.”
The press is having a field day with new orders from the Trump administration instructing DHS to adhere to long-standing enforcement law, which the Obama administration had a policy of ignoring. Warning ominously of “mass deportations,” the press is characterizing Trump’s order and new DHS policy as a pre-empt to a military-aided deportation effort that will consist of dramatic raids on millions of unsuspecting illegals all over the country. While the Trump administration could lawfully round up and deport those living here illegally, there is no evidence such an effort is in fact underway.
A more accurate description of the instructions given to DHS officials is that explicit authority to detain and possibly deport any illegal immigrant they encounter has been returned to them, in accordance with the law. While any illegal immigrant on their radar could be deported, the administration will prioritize removal of criminal illegal immigrants. The order certainly increases the chances of getting deported for some illegal immigrants, the vast majority of which put themselves at risk when the chose to cross the border illegally or remain in the country illegally by overstaying travel or work visas.
“President Trump has ordered me to reestablish control of the U.S. southern border,” Kelly said, warning Guatemalans they’re better off not trying to cross in future. “If you’re a Guatemalan who is considering paying a great deal of money to a coyote [smuggler] to bring you to the United States, you’ll be wasting our money,” he added. “You will be returned very quickly.”