The Department of Homeland Security has outlined its new guidelines for deportations under the Trump administration.
The new orders could potentially result in the detainment and deportation of any of the estimated 11 million immigrants currently residing in the U.S. illegally. The roughly 750,000 protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program are exempt for now.
On Feb. 21, the department released a series of memos issued by DHS Secretary John Kelly, greatly expanding the discretion of immigration agents and broadening the criteria for deportations compared to the Obama administration.
While the guidance memos place violent offenders as a priority, they instruct both Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to detain and deport any immigrant they encounter who is in the country without permission, even purely on the basis of their citizenship.
"Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws," one of Kelly's memos said, according to USA Today.
"They also have full authority to initiate removal proceedings against any alien who is subject to removal under any provision of the [Immigration and Nationality Act]," the memo added.
The DHS under the Obama administration had prioritized the deportation of violent felons and repeat misdemeanor offenders. Under the new rules, immigration agents will have the discretion to arrest and deport virtually any of the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.
"The fact that you are not a priority does not exempt you from potential enforcement," a DHS official told CNN.
The guidance memos also place stiff restrictions on parole for detained immigrants. While immigrants in the country illegally could be released back into the U.S. while awaiting their court dates under the Obama administration, the majority of them will now be held in detention. Kelly ordered the construction of jails along the southern U.S. border to accommodate the expected surge in detained immigrants.
The memos also enable immigration agents to send immigrants who had crossed illegally through the U.S.-Mexico border back to Mexico, regardless of their nationality. Immigration agents will no longer be obligated to return them back to their country of origin.
The new directives override many of former President Barack Obama's orders on immigration, but for now keeps DACA intact. Under DACA, people who were brought into the U.S. as children are exempt from deportation for two years.
"No. 1: None of this affects DACA," said one DHS official. "No. 2, none of this affects DAPA/expanded DACA."
While President Donald Trump had repeatedly pledged to crack down on illegal immigration, he had recently signaled a softer posture towards those protected under DACA. On Feb. 16, the president appeared to back away from his campaign pledge to make no exceptions for deportation.
"We are gonna deal with DACA with heart ... you have some absolutely incredible kids -- I would say mostly -- they were brought in here in such a way," Trump said during a press conference, Politico reports. "It's a very, very tough subject."
Federation for American Immigration Reform President Dan Stein, who has advocated against both legal and illegal immigration, has called the new DHS orders "Christmas in February."
"What Kelly has done is lay out a broad road map of regaining control of a process that's spun out of control," Stein said.
America's Voice Education Fund Deputy Director Lynn Tramonte blasted the new set of guidelines as a threat to all immigrants in the country illegally, even those who are law-abiding.
"These memos lay out a detailed blueprint for the mass deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants in America," Tramonte said. "They fulfill the wish lists of the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements and bring to life the worst of Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric."