A new glimpse at the depths of the Trump administration’s relentless, sweeping campaign against undocumented immigrants was revealed in a disturbing Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo which ProPublica uncovered on Friday.
The memo was written by Matthew Albence, ICE’s Executive Associate Director for Enforcement and Removal Operations, to the agency’s 7,600 employees. In it, workers are notified that (emphasis mine):
Effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.
The memo, obtained by ProPublica, is dated February 21, 2017. It chimes with comments by acting ICE director Thomas Homan, who has warned all undocumented immigrants that they should be “worried” about getting deported.
Clearly, regardless of the White House’s insistence that undocumented immigrants with criminal records will be the primary focus of ICE efforts, the memo shows that contact with any undocumented person by ERO employees may begin the process of deportation.
In a statement to the site, ICE spokesperson Sarah Rodriguez said:
The memo directly supports the directions handed down in the executive orders and mirrors the language ICE consistently uses to describe its enforcement posture. As Secretary Kelly and Acting Director [of ICE] Homan have stated repeatedly, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats; however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal.
Indeed, Albence’s memo appears to be a continuation of a directive set down by Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly one day prior. In a DHS letter to the heads of ICE, as well as Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services, Kelly notified his subordinates that except in instances pertaining to participants in President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, and other similar initiatives, “the Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
Ironically, on February 23, just two days after Albence’s memo was written, and three days after his own, Secretary Kelly insisted that there would be no “mass deportations” under his watch.
Sarah Saldaña, President Obama’s ICE director, who was replaced one month before this memo was written, told ProPublica that the memo represented a clear escalation by the agency.
“This is an important directive and people at ERO are bound by this directive unless someone above Matt Albence comes back and says, ‘You went too far,’” Saldaña said. “I don’t think you are going to find that person in this administration.”