Donald Trump to leave protections for US 'dreamer' migrants

Donald Trump tours the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Feb 21, 2017.
Donald Trump tours the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Feb 21, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump's administration will leave protections in place for immigrants who entered the country illegally as children, known as "dreamers," but will consider all other illegal immigrants subject to deportation, according to guidance released on Tuesday (Feb 21).

The Department of Homeland Security guidance is the implementation plan for executive orders on border security and immigration enforcement that Trump signed on Jan 25, days after taking office.

The Republican president campaigned on a pledge to get tougher on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, playing on fears of violent crime while promising to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to stop potential terrorists from entering the country.

DHS officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a conference call with reporters, said that although any immigrant in the country illegally could be deported, the agency will prioritise those deemed as posing a threat.

These include recent entrants, those convicted of a crime and people charged but not yet convicted.

However, many of the instructions to immigration agents outlined in the guidance will not be implemented immediately because they depend on Congress, a public comment period or negotiations with other nations, the officials said.

For example, the DHS will need to publish a notice in the Federal Register subject to review in order to implement one part of the plan that calls on US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to increase the number of immigrants who are not given a hearing before being deported.

The new guidance would subject immigrants who cannot show they have been in the country for more than two years to"expedited removal."

Currently, only migrants apprehended near the border who cannot show they have been in the country more than 14 days are subject to rapid removal.

The memos also instructs ICE to detain migrants who are awaiting a court decision on whether they will be deported or granted relief, such as asylum. DHS officials said they are reviewing what jurisdictions may have laws in place that prevent the amount of time immigrants can be held.

The agency also plans to send non-Mexican migrants crossing the southern US border back into Mexico as they await a decision on their case.

The DHS officials said this plan would be dependent on partnerships with the Mexican government and would not be implemented overnight.

Trump's planned measures against illegal immigrants have drawn protests, such as an event last week that activists called "A Day Without Immigrants" to highlight the importance of the foreign-born, who account for 13 per cent of the US population, or more than 40 million naturalised American citizens.