US to increase number of immigrants targeted for deportation
The Trump administration is greatly expanding the number of people living in the US illegally who are considered a priority for deportation, including people arrested for traffic violations, according to agency documents.
The Homeland Security Department memos represent a sweeping rewrite of the nation's immigration enforcement priorities.
The documents, signed by department chief John Kelly, say any immigrant living in the US illegally who has been charged or convicted of any crime - and even those suspected of a crime - will be an enforcement priority.
That could include people arrested for shoplifting or minor traffic offences.
The memos eliminate more narrow guidance issued under the Obama administration that focuses strictly on immigrants who had been convicted of serious crimes, threats to national security and recent border crossers.
Mr Kelly's memo also describes plans to enforce a long-standing but obscure provision of the US Immigration and Nationality Act that allows the government to send some people caught illegally crossing the Mexican border back to Mexico, regardless of where they are from.
One of the memos says foreigners being sent back to Mexico would wait for their US deportation proceedings to be complete. This would be used for people who are not considered a threat to cross the border illegally again, the memo said.
It is unclear whether the US has the authority to force Mexico to accept foreigners. That provision is almost certain to face opposition from civil libertarians and officials in Mexico.
Historically, the US government has been able to quickly repatriate Mexican nationals caught at the border but would detain and try to formally deport immigrants from other countries, routinely flying them to their home countries.
In some cases, those deportations can take years as immigrants ask for asylum or fight their deportation in court.
The memos do not change US immigration laws but take a harder line on enforcement.
The pair of directives do not have any impact on Barack Obama's programme that has protected more than 750,000 young immigrants from deportation.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals remains in place although immigrants in the programme will be still be eligible for deportation if they commit a crime or are deemed to be a threat to public safety or national security, according to the department.