Immigration advocates say that Trump, as a candidate and after his election, was ready to attack, rather than defend, immigrants, and that some fear the decision was designed to undermine efforts to tackle visa and refugee policies for legal immigrants.
The White House and Department of Homeland Security are considering further steps to purge as many individuals as possible from the U.S. and remove citizens from the list of immigrants allowed to continue to claim a home. Under a 2016 law that temporarily exempts certain federal officials from removal, all but five of the five U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees, known as “detainees,” who were placed on watch lists and placed in deportation proceedings, had been removed from the list of deportees to ensure the removal proceedings could proceed in court.
The plan released Friday, known as the “backdoor detainer purge,” came after ICE agents shut down Trump’s Central and Eastern District office in his former home before the election, and on Monday said they were likely to continue to block the deportations pending their confirmation by the full Senate of three senators.
The Obama administration initially allowed five of Trump’s appointees to continue in the country as long as current law allowed. He has now reversed that, as has some Democratic and independent lawmakers.
“My sense is that he wants to put in the best, most powerful person in this country who can defend and build a border and safeguard the American heart and soul from the people who need it the most,” an administration official said of the new policy.
Trump has been trying during the campaign to reduce migration into the country from countries such as Iran, Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan, who in turn have driven up immigration to America, officials said.
“He’ll seek to make sure that the country really doesn’t fall under the hands of a foreign power after a country for which he can help,” one person familiar with the president’s thinking told POLITICO on Monday.
However, the effort seems unlikely to succeed under Trump, who, unlike previous presidential candidate Barack Obama, has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of the deportation program for illegal immigrants living illegally in the U.S., the source of vast numbers of their benefits.
Since the start of the administration, ICE removed 50,000 immigrants, many of them those who had been on a watch list since 2011, officials said.
“We are aware of this group that has been deported. We are doing everything we can to help them in their rehabilitation,” a senior U.S. official told POLITICO.
As many as 8,000 U.S. citizens have been removed from the list of deportees in the past year, several officials said, including those who worked for ICE or the National Security Council.
But the government has repeatedly made clear that it may be taking action against those who were on a watch list for more than a year before any deportations, officials said. The department has made no official announcements about future actions at the Central and Eastern District’s federal level.
A top official in the White House said the decision to ban deportation by the Central District of New York, the largest and largest state-based community for illegal immigrants, was based on evidence that it was not being carried out under the Obama administration.
The state of New York bans deportation to U.S. citizens who have been in the country “because of a conflict with a governmental entity or an individual,” the official told POLITICO that had it been carried out or taken into full effect, it could have “nearly completely and completely destroyed the country.”
Trump has said the measure could be part of an effort to block deportations through a executive order, known as a travel ban, and that it was not intended as an immigration executive order.
The administration declined to comment on the issue, and one official said the issue has remained up in the air.