An internal Department of Homeland Security assessment shows that U.S. immigration agencies are preparing to reinforce the infrastructure needed for mass deportations, the Washington Post reported Wednesday,
Although Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly told the Washington Post that DHS is not pursuing mass deportations, President Donald Trump's executive orders that have expanded the pool of undocumented immigrants as well as his call for reinforcing the deportation system including the building of the wall, suggest otherwise.
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said, “This is an administration that very much is interested in setting up that mass deportation infrastructure and creating the levers of a police state.”
Trump has asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hire an additional 10,000 agents and for Customs and Border Protection to hire 5,000 new agents. The documents reveal that in a bid to speed up the process of hiring, the authorities will end polygraph and physical fitness tests in some cases.
According to the DHS assessment, the hiring of just 500 agents will cost around US$100 million. Immigrant-rights advocates dismissed the escalation in Trump's deportation plans calling it unnecessary, saying that it t will only lead to panic among 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The DHS assessment did raise concerns about the funding, but it nonetheless stated that the Border Patrol is moving ahead with the construction of the border wall with the US$20 million lawmakers reappropriated to its building in March, with the prototype expected to be completed by July 22.
However, according to The Washington Post, the Republican leaders have delayed a decision on Trump's initial request of US$1.5 billion for the wall and an additional US$2.6 billion for more border security for 2018 until after a new spending bill is approved this month.
The Democrat Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said in a recent letter to the Senate Republican leadership, “We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of such funding in a must-pass appropriations bill.” Should Congress allocate more funds, the CBP will begin working with the Army Corps of Engineers on the "highest-priority area" to construct a levee wall of 34 miles or a border barrier in the Rio Grande Valley area and a border barrier in the San Diego area.
According to government sources, the number of people crossing the Mexican border has drastically declined since Trump took to office in January. A recent report by the Center for Migration studies indicates that the number of immigrants visiting the U.S. legally and then overstaying their visas has been outnumbering those who arrived without documentation since 2007.
J. Kevin Appleby, a senior director at the Center for Migration Studies, told the Washington Post, "They’re throwing a lot of public resources at a problem that should not be a priority, especially since the number of (border) crossers is down considerably. Overall, it’s a wasted use of resources that could be used more efficiently."
The documents also show how the CBP is laying the groundwork to potentially hold immigration court hearings via video conferences at or near U.S. ports of entry if the government of Mexico agrees to house third-country immigrants awaiting adjudication in the U.S. legal system. But according to the Washington Post, the Mexican government said this would raise significant jurisdictional concerns, not to mention that it might cost US$50,000 per location for the video equipment.