Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Memos on Border Security and Interior Enforcement

On February 21, 2017, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly issued two memoranda to implement the executive orders on border security and interior enforcement of immigration laws that President Trump had issued on January 25.

These memos upend the country’s existing policies regarding border security and interior enforcement of immigration laws. They show how the Trump administration plans to carry out  a more aggressive approach to enforcing immigration laws.

The main clarifications in the implementation memo about border security include:

  • Making it easier to remove protections for unaccompanied children and detain and deport undocumented immigrants in the United States.
  • Redefines the legal meaning of “unaccompanied child” to remove legal protections for those with a parent residing in the United States, and directs immigration officers to look into deporting or criminally prosecuting people, including parents, who directly or indirectly facilitate the smuggling of a child into the United States.
  • Directs immigration officers to intensify their screening for asylum seekers claiming credible fear and requires the detention of all undocumented immigrants arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border. Detention of all these undocumented immigrants until deported will require additional resources for contracts for space or for building new prisons.
  • Paves the way to expand the use of expedited removal to individuals anywhere in the United States who cannot prove they have resided in the country for more than two years. Expedited removal allows DHS to immediately deport undocumented immigrants without going through the immigration court process. Previously, expedited removal was used to deport undocumented immigrants within 100 miles of the Southwest border and who could not prove they had resided in the United States for at least 14 days.
  • Directs immigration officers to use parole, including advanced parole, sparingly. As a result, an undocumented immigrant who entered the United States without inspection and marries a U.S. citizen will have a harder time earning legal status while residing in the United States.
  • Directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to hire an additional 500 Air and Marine agents in addition to an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and immediately begins the planning, design and construction of a border wall.


The main clarifications in the implementation memo about interior enforcement include:

  • Rescinding existing immigration enforcement priorities and lists the categories of individuals who are now a priority for deportation. The priorities are now so broad, including those who are only suspected of committing a crime that in effect almost all undocumented immigrants will be considered a priority.
  • Expands use of the Criminal Alien Program in any willing jurisdiction in the United States so that removal proceedings can be initiated against those who are incarcerated.
  • Directs the Director of ICE to terminate the provision of any outreach or advocacy services to undocumented immigrants (except as necessary to comply with a judicial order).
  • Promotes local law enforcement’s role enforcing federal immigration laws by expanding the §287(g) program to encourage local law enforcement to serve as “force multipliers” for federal authorities who deputize local law enforcement officers to perform the functions of federal immigration agents (interrogate and arrest those believed to have violated immigration laws). This could strain local law enforcement departments as limited personnel and resources are channeled to immigration enforcement.
  • Directs the hiring of 10,000 agents and officers, as well as additional operational and mission support and legal staff necessary to hire and support their activities.


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