Trump signing his first executive order – on border security and immigration at DHS pic.twitter.com/ecETE3u6Ss
— Kristin Donnelly (@kristindonnelly) January 25, 2017
President Donald Trump just signed an expansive executive order directing federal agencies to enforce federal immigration law. Legal experts tell LawNewz.com that they read the order as dramatically expanding the category of so-called ‘criminal aliens’ and the directive could even impact legal U.S. residents.
The executive order is “not just widely sweeping in (targeting not only) undocumented but also lawful residents who have a past offense such as drug possession or shoplifting regardless of equities,” NYU law Professor Nancy Morawetz, an immigration law expert, told LawNewz.com.
Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer assured the public that the President intends to direct all agencies to only focus “on those who are in this country illegally and have a record — a criminal record or [who pose] a threat to the American people.” However, the executive order that Trump signed Wednesday afternoon appears to go much further than that and basically puts millions of undocumented immigrants on notice that they could face deportation proceedings.
According to the executive order, Trump directed that the Department of Homeland Security prioritize the following non citizens for deportation:
(a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
(b) Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved;
(c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
(d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
(e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
(f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or
(g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
During the Obama administration, DHS prioritized non-citizens who had criminal convictions, but Trump’s order also now includes undocumented immigrants that have not even been convicted of any criminal offense and those that have committed acts that could possibly constitute a chargeable offense.
“I read the order as dramatically expanding the category of so-called ‘criminal aliens’ that have long been a deportation priority for both Republican and Democratic administrations,” Adam Cox, an immigration law professor at NYU’s School of Law told LawNewz.com.
“The order includes those who have ‘committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.; That doesn’t include all 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, because many undocumented immigrants entered the country lawfully but failed to leave when their authorized stay in the U.S. ran out. It does, however, appear to prioritize the deportation of every undocumented immigrant who entered the U.S. without inspection. That is because 8 USC 1325 makes it a misdemeanor to ‘(1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers,” Cox explained to us.
Some experts also contend that the order may go beyond the President’s authority. “The key word in the executive order is ‘lawful’ and the president cannot make ‘lawful’ deportation and sanctions that Congress has not authorized,” Yale Law Professor Judith Resnik told LawNewz.com. “None of us are safer or wiser- nor are we more just and kind – by deploying such ungrounded anti-migrant statements as in the executive order.” But Trump clearly disagrees.
“We do not need new laws,” Trump said after signing the executive order. Trump’s order on Wednesday did not specifically address President Barack Obama‘s DACA plan, which protected undocumented immigrants who came to the United States when they were young children or who have parents that are lawful US residents from deportation.
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