By Seth Daniel
The federal government’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a wide-ranging memo on immigration enforcement Tuesday that widens the scope of who can be picked up for being an illegal immigrant, and for what reasons.
DHS Secretary John Kelly issued a memo called ‘Implementing the Presidents Border Security Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies’ that defined how the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would carry out President Donald Trump’s immigration orders at the southern border and within the interior of the country.
While one major policy point was defined, which was the end of the so-called ‘catch and release’ program at the U.S. Border (meaning that those detained at the border would be held in detention centers and not released into the general public while awaiting a court date), the implications in Chelsea come more along the lines of who can be detained on the interior.
“The scope was very narrow and now it’s been widened,” said Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes. “Before Jan. 25, there were only certain, more serious, crimes that would trigger someone being removed. Now with this new memo that has been widened. Someone convicted of any crime is on that list now. Someone charged with having committed a crime, even without a conviction, is on that list. Anyone who has a deportation order is on that list. Anyone who is undocumented – with the exception of children or unaccompanied minors, who seem to have some leniency here – the memo said there is no class with protection if undocumented. The other side of the equation is that ICE doesn’t have the capacity right now to carry that out.”
However, he did say that the memo calls for the hiring of 10,000 more ICE agents in the next year to begin more actions.
“The future concern down the road is when there might be serious consequences here,” he said.
Right now, there have only been 42 detainers since 2012 issued to the Chelsea Police from ICE, with none coming over the last two years. A detainer is issued by ICE for someone who has been arrested. Typically, someone with a detainer cannot be bailed out of jail and it give ICE a chance to come and get the person over a period of 48 hours.
“We do not make bail decisions; that is done by the Clerk Magistrate and Assistant Clerks,” he said. “When they see a detainer, they won’t bail a person. That means they have to go to court. It’s good for 48 hours. If ICE doesn’t show up in 48 hours, then the person can be bailed. They will be held until then though.”
He said the Chelsea Police will not participate in any ICE actions, unless it is on very serious criminals sought by the FBI and State Police. He said the public can trust the Chelsea Police and work with them as they have up to now.
“What has changed in the last few months when it comes to how we work at the local police level?” he asked. “Nothing.”
In the neighborhoods, Sylvia Ramirez of the Chelsea Collaborative said they are formulating a plan of action in case there are raids and people need to be protected.
“There are teams being put together so we can support our residents,” she said. “The Chelsea Collaborative has worked really really hard to create a plan to support families and protect them and shelter them if something bad happens.”
She said the Collaborative is seeking volunteers to canvas the neighborhoods on March 18 to get information out to people who typically aren’t in the loop. They will also be collecting information from people so that they can contact them if there’s an emergency.
“We are creating a system to be able to notify community members if something were to happen here so they don’t rely on social media,” she said. “We are looking for volunteers to go out and do this and educate the community. It’s been very hard to handle social media and the misinformation going around.”
She said they are also in the process of creating the most comprehensive brochure about the rights of illegal immigrants who are living here and may run into trouble.
Kyes said one part of the DHS memo allowed local police departments to volunteer for what is called a 287g program. That program is active in about 32 places near the border in the U.S. now and allows local police or deputies to be trained by the federal government to carry out and enforce the federal immigration laws. The memo indicates the program will be expanded on a voluntary basis all over the country.
“That program is never going to happen in Chelsea,” said Kyes.