Any immigrant who's in the country illegally and is charged or convicted of any offense, or even suspected of a crime, now will be an enforcement priority, according to two Homeland Security Department memos signed by Secretary John Kelly.
The Trump administration memos replace narrower guidance focusing on immigrants who've been convicted of serious crimes, are considered threats to national security or are recent border crossers, says The Associated Press.
Kelly's plans call for enforcing a longstanding but obscure provision of immigration law that allows the government to send some people caught illegally crossing the Mexican border back to Mexico, regardless of where they're from.
"Mexicans quake at the thought of handling not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of foreigners in a border region already struggling with drug gangs and violence,” says a separate AP article.
The memos also call for the hiring of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
The directives don't affect President Obama's program that's protected more than 750,000 young immigrants from deportation, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, a senior Department of Homeland Security official moved to avert what he called a “sense of panic” in immigrant communities.
“We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“The message is: The immigration law is back in business,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports restricted immigration. “That violating immigration law is no longer a secondary offense.”
The American Civil Liberties Union says it'll challenge the directives.
"These memos confirm that the Trump administration is willing to trample on due process, human decency, the well-being of our communities, and even protections for vulnerable children, in pursuit of a hyper-aggressive mass deportation policy," says Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.
“I worry that when you cast a wide net, you’re going to catch some criminals — but you’re going to catch a lot of good people who don’t have papers but they have not committed violent crimes,” says Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba.