President Trump is ordering the federal government to step up enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, to the delight of enforcement-first immigration hawks who have been on the outside looking in during the last two administrations.

“For me, every day since the election has been like Christmas,” said former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who was for a decade the leading immigration restrictionist in Congress. “Santa Trump gives me a present every day and this was today’s.”

The gift Tancredo is referring to came in the form of Department of Homeland Security documents made public Tuesday detailing the Trump administration’s plans to step up immigration enforcement both at the border and within the interior of the country.

According to these documents, the Trump administration is going to expand its enforcement priorities beyond illegal immigrants who have also committed serious crimes. Any criminal conviction could result in deportation, especially for the kind of document fraud that is common among the undocumented.

The memoranda remind the public that any illegal immigrant is subject to removal. The DHS is ordered to widen the areas of the country where illegal immigrants can be deported swiftly. Immigration authorities will “no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”

“The faithful execution of our immigration laws is best achieved by using all these statutory authorities to the greatest extent practicable,” Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly wrote in one of the two memos. “Accordingly, department personnel shall make full use of these authorities.”

Advocates of tighter immigration controls have been waiting for these changes for a long time.

“As promised, the Trump administration is moving quickly to find and deport the nation’s dangerous criminal aliens, who have victimized innocent American families and have been allowed to remain in the U.S. for too long,” said Dave Ray, communications director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

“The administration has also emphasized that unlawfully entering the U.S. is a removable offense, and no longer will broad categories of removable aliens be exempt from potential enforcement.”

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“Regaining control of the border along with taking enforcement actions to restore credibility to our immigration laws is a welcome change of events,” Ray added.

Immigration hawks didn’t win every battle, as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) continues to despite Trump’s promise last year to revoke his predecessor’s executive actions on immigration.

“They put flesh on the bones of the executive orders,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, of the memos. “They’re fine overall, though they specifically allow DACA to continue and they don’t have any emphasis on worksite enforcement or E-Verify.”

“The DACA situation is a very, very — it’s a very difficult thing for me because you know, I love these kids,” the president said at a press conference last week. “I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and you know, the law is rough.”

But under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, immigration hawks did not have a place at the table. Some were worried that even the Trump administration would let them down.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions was their only top choice for a Cabinet job to be nominated while Andrew Puzder, the fast food CEO who was Trump’s first nominee for secretary of labor, would have been put in charge of important guest-worker programs despite a long track record supporting the importation of cheap foreign labor.

Yet Puzder’s nomination was withdrawn when Senate Republicans couldn’t guarantee enough votes for his confirmation. The initial immigration moves, from the controversial travel ban to Tuesday’s memos, show more influence from immigration restrictionists like policy adviser Stephen Miller and top strategist Stephen Bannon than more Puzder-like Republicans inside the administration.

All this has caused Democrats to revive claims that Trump plans mass deportations. Both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi used the phrase to describe the plan.

Outside progressive groups are even more adamant in their opposition.

“The memos issued by the DHS today create the foundation for a mass deportation machine, unlike anything we have ever seen,” Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“These steps fly in the face of who we are as a nation and are already sowing mass confusion and panic in immigrant communities and those who serve them.”

America’s Voice Education Fund issued a statement calling the directives a fulfillment not just of Trump’s campaign promises but “the wish lists of the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements.”

Obama also increased deportations early in his administration, although the exact numbers are in dispute. But he focused on illegal immigrants who were convicted of serious crimes and people caught near the border in an effort to enhance the government’s credibility on enforcement ahead of a future push for comprehensive immigration reform.

Hill communications staff craves direction from Trump White House

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Traditionally, the White House has weekly calls with spokespeople, but the Trump administration has yet to.

02/22/17 12:01 AM

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