World

As numbers fall, US ups illegal immigrant crackdown

WASHINGTON: Encouraged by a sharp downturn in illegal border crossers, the US administration is ramping up a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, taking aim at Central American labourers and Indian tech workers in the Silicon Valley.

The police, prosecutors and judges were ordered to take a harder line against all illegal immigrants as hiring standards for immigration agents are being eased to quickly beef up their ranks.

Also, more facilities to hold detained immigrants are being built and more judges are being added to handle cases.

Officials were directed to round up illegal immigrants, even those in the country for decades, at places that used to be safe - courthouses, town halls and cities offering them sanctuary.

Three months into the Trump administration, the number of illegal border crossers plunged to a four-decade low, according to the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP).

Apprehensions of illegal border crossers last month dropped to 16,600, down 30 per cent from February and 64 per cent from a year ago.

It is too early to see any pickup in deportations, which take longer to process.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered CBP and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain those who cross the US-Mexico border without legal documents and present them to a judge. In the past, most were just delivered back over the border.

He also ordered prosecutors to lodge felony charges when someone is caught sneaking in for a second time.

Those who transport and harbour illegal immigrants risk jail, as does anyone caught using false papers, which is common among illegal immigrants.

"The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch-and-release practices of old are over," Mr Sessions said.

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly authorised CBP and ICE agents to go after illegal immigrants in places they once felt safe.

An increasing number have been rounded up in public offices applying for licences, reporting crimes and even meeting officials to legalise their residence.

PROTEST

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye protested to Mr Sessions and Mr Kelly that such areas were supposed to be protected and accused ICE of "stalking" people who "pose no risk to public safety". But the two officials said the arrests will continue and criticised policies that offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants.

They also warned technology companies bringing in skilled workers under the H-1B visa program that the government will take a tougher line with companies abusing that program.

Previous permissions for H-1B workers' spouses to also work could be eliminated.

Meanwhile, designs are underway for the construction of a wall along the entire 3,200km US-Mexico border that US President Donald Trump promised.

It will be a full physical barrier the entire way. - AFP

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