A huge surge in detention. Illegal immigrants who came up through Mexico being shipped quickly back to Mexico. National Guard troops arresting illegal immigrants across the West.
After years of neglect, immigration enforcement is proving to be a fertile space for action — and for speculation, as draft reports leak out of Homeland Security, frightening immigrant rights groups and thrilling President Trump’s backers who have longed to see this sort of crackdown.
The White House has shot down some of the reports, including a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press that envisioned 100,000 National Guard troops patrolling from Oregon to Louisiana, empowered to arrest illegal immigrants.
“There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters last week, responding to the AP report.
Still, Mr. Trump has gotten off the blocks quickly on immigration, issuing a series of executive orders that, if fully carried out, could fundamentally shift the risk calculus for Mexico and for the hundreds of thousands of Central American illegal immigrants who have streamed through that country en route to the U.S. in recent years.
“We’ve taken historic action to secure the southern border. And I’ve ordered the construction of a great border wall, which will start very shortly. And I’ve taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” Mr. Trump said Saturday night in Florida, holding a campaign-style rally to take stock of his first month in office.
He was deploying Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly on Wednesday to Guatemala, source of some of the new surge of illegal immigrant children and families. Mr. Kelly is expected to meet with President Jimmy Morales and observe a return flight of deportees from the U.S. to Guatemala.
He’ll then travel to Mexico, where he and Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson will talk border security and trade with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Back home in the U.S., Mr. Kelly is dealing with the fallout from a series of raids rounding up illegal immigrants earlier this month.
Those raids galvanized activists and sparked massive protests and even the blockade of an ICE facility where one illegal immigrant mother was being held.
The raids were actually smaller than similar actions under President Obama, but one of the cases — a young adult illegal immigrant “Dreamer” — has sparked a bitter legal challenge.
Meanwhile, a new round of draft memos leaked over the weekend detailed ways the department would carry out Mr. Trump’s first two immigration executive orders. While lost in the fight over his extreme vetting order, the president’s initial orders, on both border and interior enforcement, marked a major shift in the way the government plans to address illegal immigration.
Both drafts, dated Feb. 17, were signed by Mr. Kelly and called for hiring 5,000 new Border Patrol agents, 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and erasing the Obama administration’s “priorities” policy that had exempted most illegal immigrants from any danger of deportation.
Many of the Central American children who surged into the U.S. over the last few years and who have been deemed “unaccompanied,” entitling them to special protections under the law, could be reclassified as regular underage illegal immigrants — since, in many cases, they are rejoining parents already in the U.S. illegally.
The parents paying for their children to be smuggled, meanwhile, could face deportation or even prosecution, one draft memo says.
Illegal immigrants who came through Mexico, were caught at the border and are now awaiting deportation proceedings could be shipped back to Mexico to wait, while those in the interior who have been in the U.S. less than two years could be kicked out under a fast-track deportation known as “expedited removal.”
Immigrant rights groups were furious, saying the changes would roll back years of protections that have built up for illegal immigrants.
“These policies do not accurately reflect the America I know and love,” said Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats demanded scrutiny and pushback.
“We need an immediate public examination in Congress of these heavy-handed, anti-family policies,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s immigration subcommittee.
Left out of this weekend’s leaked memos was any mention of the National Guard, which was part of a Jan. 25 memo obtained by The Associated Press.
That earlier memo had called for troops from up to 11 states ranging from Louisiana to Oregon. Governors would have had the option to join in, the earlier memo said. Troops would have been charged with enforcing immigration laws.
Mr. Spicer said that option was never under consideration by the White House.