After the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) approval of a sweeping new deportation guidelines last week, new reporting on Monday revealed that the aggressive plan has already been endorsed by the recently installed Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The guidelines, signed by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and dated Friday, would empower federal authorities to "hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, speed up deportation hearings, and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests," the Washington Post reported.
Also under the new guidelines, parents of unaccompanied minors who travel from Mexico and Central America "could be prosecuted if they are found to have paid smugglers to bring the children across the border," according to The Post.
After the the memo was first reported, an unnamed White House official told reporters that the rules are still "under review by the White House Counsel's Office."
But as McClatchy's Franco Ordoñez pointed out on Monday, Sessions, the controversial new head of the Department of Justice, had specifically called for these harsh terms months prior while still serving in Congress, suggesting that the memos "are not out of the mainstream of Trump administration thinking in spite of the White House insistence that the orders have not yet been approved."
What's more, Ordoñez noted that "former Sessions aide Stephen Miller is now a top adviser to Trump and is believed to have been behind Trump's controversial immigration executive orders."
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In a July 6 letter to Obama administration officials, the then Republican senator from Alabama prodded then DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and then Attorney General Loretta Lynch about two of the most controversial issues raised in the Kelly memos.
He pressed the administration to explain why unaccompanied minors were not "humanely sent back home" after being reunited with their parents living illegally in the United States. He also wanted to know why the children's parents had not been prosecuted for aiding and abetting human traffickers by paying them to bring their children illegally into the United States.
"Strong leadership and a commitment to the faithful execution of the laws on the books would convey a clear message to the world that if you come to the United States illegally, you will be removed," read the letter, which was co-authored by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and obtained by McClatchy.
Coming amid a widespread immigration crackdown, with deportation raids now targeting law-abiding and long-term residents, the new terms raised alarm among rights groups who say they violate fundamental human rights.
"This is immigration enforcement under Trump: due process, human decency, and common sense are treated as inconvenient obstacles on the path to mass deportation," Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a Friday statement. "The Trump administration is intent on inflicting cruelty on millions of immigrant families across the country."
"Immigrants and allies have proven that we can fight back against Trump," Lin vowed, "and we will not allow his radical, unprecedented combination of unconstitutional actions and terrible policy to become our reality."