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Trump stays course on immigrants, undocumented workers
[WASHINGTON] The courts may have halted his travel ban but that hasn't caused President Donald Trump to shy away from action on a variety of immigration fronts, his administration indicated Sunday.
Faced with the halt, Mr Trump is "considering and pursuing all options" including a new executive order on the matter, his aide Stephen Miller told "Fox News Sunday".
While Mr Trump's Jan 27 decree on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees played out in the courts, a separate executive order prioritising the deportation of undocumented migrants helped guide procedures as hundreds of individuals, many of them Latinos, were arrested last week, Mr Miller said.
"As a result of the president's order, greatly expanded and more vigorous immigration enforcement activities are taking place," he said of the deportation decree.
Mr Miler's statements aired on Fox soon after a tweet by Mr Trump proclaiming: "The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!"
Over the past week the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency rounded up undocumented individuals living in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other cities in what it called "routine" operations.
But Mr Miller indicated Sunday that the raids, which follow Mr Trump's Jan 25 executive order prioritising deportation of undocumented individuals convicted of or "charged with any criminal offense", including misdemeanours, were made more robust under the decree.
"It is true that Operation Cross Check is something that happens every year. But this year we have taken new and greater steps to remove criminal aliens from our communities," Mr Miller said.
"Operation Cross Check" refers to a series of large-scale raids began in 2011 under then president Barack Obama.
Many Democrats have called on the government to act in moderation, fearful that people without a criminal record will find themselves swept up and in the detentions.
The case of a mother in Phoenix, Arizona who was expelled to Mexico on Thursday crystalised such worries, even among some Republicans.
"There is a lot of worry here in Arizona by those who... are illegally here but they have not committed aggravated felonies," said Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, adding that the only hope for permanent change lies in major Congressional reform.
As per Mr Trump's traveller ban Mr Miller said the next step would be either filing an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court, defending the merits of the order in lower courts or issuing a new one.
The order that Mr Trump issued abruptly in late January aimed to halt resettlement of all refugees for 120 days and that of Syrian refugees indefinitely.
It also barred for 90 days the entry of nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries.
Mr Miller insisted the president has the power to keep some people from entering the United States.
"We are contemplating new and additional actions to ensure that immigration is not a vehicle for admitting people into our country that are hostile to its nation and its values," Mr Miller said.
The ban was supposed to be in place while the government comes up with a new system of so-called "extreme vetting" of people seeking entry visas. This could include checks on their social media accounts, according to John Kelly, the secretary of homeland security.
But a federal judge in Seattle issued a stay against the order on Feb 3. Then a three judge appeals panel in San Francisco voted unanimously last week against reinstating Mr Trump's ban.
The idea of the White House issuing a modified immigration order that would survive scrutiny in the courts does not convince Democrats, who from the outset have charged that Mr Trump's decree is simply anti-Muslim and plays into the hands of extremists.
"It will be used as a recruitment for terrorist organisations. It will put Americans at greater risk travelling abroad," said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.