The Observer view on Theresa May’s hateful ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy

The Observer view on Theresa May’s hateful ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy

The Home Office’s unbending attitude is needlessly blighting lives. It must not be tolerated any longer

Home Office Immigration enforcement vehicles

Home Office immigration enforcement vehicles in London help to create the ‘hostile environment’ engendered by Theresa May.
Photograph: Alamy

History will judge Theresa May harshly. In recent weeks, the appalling stories about the impact of the government’s “hostile environment” policy reported by our sister paper, the Guardian, have continued to grow in number. They paint a shocking picture of a Kafkaesque state that has denied people who came to the UK from the Commonwealth as children their rightful entitlement to work, to housing and to healthcare.

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May has maintained these are people who have been wrongly caught up in her 2013 decision as home secretary to create a “really hostile environment” for people living in Britain illegally. But their tragic stories are the direct consequence of a policy so punitive that it would inevitably make life intolerable for legal British residents.

People without a passport are now being required to provide an absurd level of proof – four pieces of documentary evidence for each year of residence – of their legal status.

Without this, they can no longer work, rent a home, open a bank account or access NHS care and may be detained and threatened with deportation. Doctors, bank clerks and landlords have become obliged to snoop on their fellow citizens by checking up on their immigration status.

The government has doggedly pursued a hostile environment as a cheap alternative to investing in the border force and a functioning programme of exit checks. But leave the rhetoric aside and there is no evidence it is effective in encouraging people in Britain illegally to leave; the number of voluntary departures has actually fallen from its peak in 2013. What it has achieved, however, is seeding discrimination: research has found that requiring landlords to check people’s papers makes them less likely to rent to people with foreign accents or names.

May’s initial response when the Windrush generation cases were first raised can only be described as callous. When Jeremy Corbyn wrote to her to raise the case of Albert Thompson, a man who moved to Britain from Jamaica as a child and whose mother worked as a nurse, but who has now been refused radiotherapy on the NHS, she first refused to intervene. Downing Street initially turned down a formal request to meet from 12 representatives of Caribbean countries. It has taken May months since the Guardian first reported on these cases to offer reassurances that the situation will be resolved for the Windrush generation and that they will be offered compensation.

Albert Thompson

Theresa May initially refused to help Albert Thompson, who had been denied NHS treatment for cancer. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

This does not go far enough. A wider group of lives is being blighted by the hostile environment. One case is that of Jay, a young black person born in the UK and taken into care as a baby and who was refused a passport. A state that was in loco parentis to him for almost 18 years threatened to deport him to a country he’d never even visited as an adult. Other children have lost their right to apply for British citizenship when they turned 18 because local authorities did not secure their citizenship while they were in their care.

There are countless other casualties of the hostile environment, such as families separated from their children because of the Home Office’s harsh rules.

Those who become caught up in this are confronted with a cruel Home Office bureaucracy that operates outside the principles of natural justice. Officials are incentivised to reject applications for the tiniest of technical errors; immigration application fees are so high they are generating profits of up to 800% for the state, and there is no longer any right of appeal or legal aid available in most types of immigration cases.

Children as young as 10 who were born in the UK are subjected to a “good character” test when they apply for citizenship; if they have been cautioned, their application can be refused.

The hostile environment will also have huge ramifications in the context of Brexit. EU citizens who have a right to remain in Britain but who cannot afford to secure the necessary papers will become similarly ensnared. We can expect EU leaders watching this crisis unfold to insist rightly on more robust guarantees for their citizens as a result.

Both the prime minister and the home secretary, Amber Rudd, must accept full responsibility. Rudd’s attempt to pass the buck to officials for implementing government policy last week was utterly disingenuous. But it was Theresa May who was responsible for developing this approach while she was home secretary. Were she still in that post, her position would have been untenable.

It is not enough to address the plight of the affected members of the Windrush generation. The government must dismantle the hostile environment altogether and restore a sense of natural justice to the immigration system; this should include relaxing its evidence requirements and slashing its application fees. Nobody who has grown up in Britain should be denied citizenship.

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Justice has spoken: The courts rebuke Trump on immigration

Tuesday, Gorsuch cast the deciding vote on rejecting a justification often used to justify deportations for immigrants convicted of felonies. Finding the federal law dictating deportation for those guilty of “a crime of violence” unacceptably vague, Gorsuch wrote: “A government of laws and not of men can never tolerate that arbitrary power.” The Trump doctrine this ain’t.

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Macron’s controversial immigration and asylum bill set for vote this weekend

French lawmakers approved a measure of President Emmanuel Macron’s tough immigration bill that would allow authorities to double the amount of time they can detain those who have been refused asylum to up to 135 days.

The move came a day after the national assembly voted to cut the appeals process for a failed asylum bill to 15 days.

The bill has sparked rumblings of revolt with Macron’s party, with several MPs openly challenging his plans to speed up deportations of failed asylum-seekers.

Other aspects of the bill are scheduled for vote on Sunday.

In the run-up to French presidential elections back in May 2017, centrist then-candidate Emmanuel Macron hailed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy as responding “humanely” to the refugee crisis and “saving [Europe’s] collective dignity”.

He promised to shorten the process of asylum requests to six months and proposed making it easier to obtain a “talent visa”, an option for skilled workers to find employment in France.

Macron stated that France “would welcome refugees in need of protection”, making specific reference to those whose lives were in jeopardy, excluding economic migrants and those without refugee status.

At the time, the French president was facing far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential elections. Le Pen advocated an anti-immigration policy and expressed concerns over security, which helped her gain popularity.

But today, Macron seems determined to tighten French immigration law as the government argues that stricter controls are needed to check the rise of anti-immigration populists.

France faced an unprecedented wave of arrivals last year. In January, the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) said it had received 100,000 applications for asylum (an increase of 17 percent) for the third year in a row, although demands fell in Europe as a whole from 1.2 million to 600,000.

Meanwhile, police prevented an estimated 85,000 migrants from entering France in 2017.

Despite this figure, the leader of France’s right-wing Les Républicains, Laurent Wauquiez, believes the Macron administration is not doing enough. On April 19, he said that without a change in policy, he believes France is on course to legalise “a million more immigrants” by 2022.

However, a shortage of accommodation means many wind up on the streets of Paris or the northern port of Calais, a gateway to Britain, where a squalid camp known as “The Jungle” housing thousands of migrants was razed by the state in late 2016.

>> France will never allow another ‘Jungle’ here, Macron says in Calais

In February, Macron’s government unveiled a bill aimed at speeding up the processing of asylum requests and the expulsion of migrants who are unable to claim asylum.

“I fear that if we do not resolve the problem facing us … others will do it without any humanity,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said earlier in March.

The proposed bill has triggered complaints from human rights groups and a wave of street protests by civil servants in charge of asylum procedures. There have even been stirrings of opposition from within Macron’s own party, La République En Marche (LREM), which up until now had been showing a united front.

The bill has also sparked controversy on both sides of the French political spectrum, with the left branding it “inhumane” while voices on the right have called it “too soft”.

Immigration law

Macron’s bill is a balancing act of sorts between policing France’s borders and defending refugees and their rights under international law.

The bill would cut the asylum application process to six months from the current waiting period of 11 months. Those whose cases are rejected will see the time they have to appeal against the decision halved, from 30 days to 15. The deadlines to apply for asylum will be shortened from 120 days to 90 days after a migrant’s arrival in France.

This last clause looks to have Macron’s fingerprints all over it, as it intends to portray the government as efficiently working on accelerating the process for “deserving” asylum-seekers while cracking down on others. However, in reality, the shortened time will make it difficult for asylum-seekers to pull together a coherent case.

Other measures involve allowing authorities to detain those who have been refused asylum for up to 135 days while they await deportation. The bill will also double the time for which undocumented migrants can be detained to 90 days.

Entering the country without using a recognised border crossing will be made an offence punishable by up to one year in prison while the sentence for using fake identification papers will be five years.

New powers will also be given to border patrol and customs officers to carry out checks in migrant and homeless shelters.


French weekly l’Obs, which supported Macron during his campaign and his first few months at the Elysée Palace, has heavily criticised the bill. In January it published a black-and-white photo of his face wrapped in barbed wire on its cover above the words: “Welcome to the country of human rights.”

In a letter published in Le Monde last month, think-tank analysts and academics accused the president of using “doublespeak” on migration and failing to keep his campaign promises. “Mr. Macron, your politics contradict the humanism that you preach,” wrote the signatories, which included Jean Pisani-Ferry, the economist who put together Macron’s economic programme.

Macron recently defended the country’s tough new asylum laws in a televised interview with Edwy Plenel of the investigative website Mediapart and Jean-Jacques Bourdin of RMC radio, timed to mark his first year in office.

“France cannot take in all the misery of the world,” he said.

Date created : 2018-04-21

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Windrush generation could be offered immigration status lifeline by records in National Archives

The Windrush generation might be offered a lifeline after it was revealed that the National Archives hold arrival records of thousands of people who came to the UK decades ago.

Details from arrivals into the UK, including name, birth date, and details of the journey taken were all recorded on passenger lists drawn up for the Board of Trade between 1878 and 1960.

These records – which are filed in nearly 1,500 boxes at the National Archives – could include those who came to Britain from the Caribbean by ship.

Recent restrictions in immigration law require people to have paperwork proof of near-continuous residence in the UK.


The Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks from Jamaica, with 482 Jamaicans on board (Getty)

Many of those in the Windrush generation lack these records, having never applied for British citizenship or passports, and are now struggling to prove they are here legally.

However, it has emerged that thousands of landing card slips recording the arrival of Windrush-era immigrants were destroyed by the Home Office in 2009.

These records could help those looking to support claims of their arrival on British shores.

It comes as more stories from those affected by the issue have come to light.

Gretel Gorcan, 81, is reported to have been denied re-entry into the UK after going to her native Jamaica for a funeral.

Ms Gorcan told the Daily Mirror she has been stuck in the Caribbean since 2009, having been told she needs a visa to return to the UK.

She told the paper: “I travelled to Britain to help out on the promise of a new life but now they have turned their back on me.

“My children are still in London but I am left here. It is not how I wanted to live my final years.”

The Home Office told the Mirror it is urgently reviewing cases.

Meanwhile, the Government is to make compensation payments to members of the Windrush generation who suffered as a result of official challenges to their migration status.

Downing Street declined to give details of the compensation scheme, saying that they would be announced “shortly” by the Home Office.

It is thought that payments will probably go beyond the reimbursement of legal bills and include a recognition of the anxiety caused to long-standing Commonwealth residents of the UK whose right to be in the country was questioned.

Press Association

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Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at US Border

The data was prepared by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services that takes custody of children who have been removed from migrant parents. Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which processes migrants at the border, initially denied that the numbers were so high. But after they were confirmed to The Times by three federal officials who work closely with these cases, a spokesman for the health and human services department on Friday acknowledged in a statement that there were “approximately 700.”

Homeland security officials said the agency does not separate families at the border for deterrence purposes. “As required by law, D.H.S. must protect the best interests of minor children crossing our borders, and occasionally this results in separating children from an adult they are traveling with if we cannot ascertain the parental relationship, or if we think the child is otherwise in danger,” a spokesman for the agency said in a statement.

But Trump administration officials have suggested publicly in the past that they were, indeed, considering a deterrence policy. Last year, John F. Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff, floated the idea while he was serving as homeland security secretary.

If approved, the plan would have closed detention facilities that are designed to house families and replaced them with separate shelters for adults and children. The White House supported the move and convened a group of officials from several federal agencies to consider its merits. But the Department of Homeland Security has said the policy was never adopted.

Children removed from their families are taken to shelters run by nongovernmental organizations. There, workers seek to identify a relative or guardian in the United States who can take over the child’s care. But if no such adult is available, the children can languish in custody indefinitely. Operators of these facilities say they are often unable to locate the parents of separated children because the children arrive without proper records.


A woman was reunited with her 7-year-old daughter in Chicago in March after they had been separated for four months in immigration detention.

Hope Hall/Aclu

Once a child has entered the shelter system, there is no firm process to determine whether they have been separated from someone who was legitimately their parent, or for reuniting parents and children who had been mistakenly separated, said a Border Patrol official, who was not authorized to discuss the agency’s policies publicly.

“The idea of punishing parents who are trying to save their children’s lives, and punishing children for being brought to safety by their parents by separating them, is fundamentally cruel and un-American,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, an advocacy group that conducts interviews and monitoring at immigration detention centers, including those that house children. “It really to me is just a horrific ‘Sophie’s Choice’ for a mom.”

Mirian has pinballed across Texas, held at various times in three other detention centers. She is part of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of many immigrant parents seeking to prohibit family separations at the border.

Her son’s name, along with Mirian’s surname, are being withheld for their safety. But in a declaration she filed in that case, she said she was never told why her son was being taken away from her. Since February, the only word she has received about him has come from a case manager at the facility in San Antonio where he is being held. Her son asked about her and “cried all the time” in the days after he arrived at the facility, the case worker said, adding that the boy had developed an ear infection and a cough.

“I had no idea that I would be separated from my child for seeking help,” Mirian said in her sworn statement. “I am so anxious to be reunited with him.”

Protecting children at the border is complicated because there have, indeed, been instances of fraud. Tens of thousands of migrants arrive there every year, and those with children in tow are often released into the United States more quickly than adults who come alone, because of restrictions on the amount of time that minors can be held in custody. Some migrants have admitted they brought their children not only to remove them from danger in such places as Central America and Africa, but because they believed it would cause the authorities to release them from custody sooner.

Others have admitted to posing falsely with children who are not their own, and Border Patrol officials say that such instances of fraud are increasing.

As the debate carries on, pressure from the White House to enact a separation policy has continued. In conversations this month with Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration that the agency has not been aggressive enough in policing the border, according to a person at the White House who is familiar with the discussions.

Officials presented Mr. Trump with a list of proposals, including the plan to routinely separate immigrant adults from their children. The president urged Ms. Nielsen to move forward with the policies, the person said.

But even groups that support stricter immigration policies have stopped short of endorsing a family separation policy. Jessica M. Vaughan, the director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, one such group, said that family separation should only be used as a “last resort.”

However, she said that some migrants were using children as “human shields” in order to get out of immigration custody faster.

“It makes no sense at all for the government to just accept these attempts at fraud,” Ms. Vaughan said. “If it appears that the child is being used in this way, it is in the best interest of the child to be kept separately from the parent, for the parent to be prosecuted, because it’s a crime and it’s one that has to be deterred and prosecuted.”

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No era abogado de inmigración, pero muchos ecuatorianos le creyeron

Departamento de Asuntos de Consumidores de la Ciudad cierra un acuerdo de restitución y multa a un individuo que timaba a inmigrantes principalmente de ese país suramericano

Angel G. Buitron, de Buitron Offices, habló a su cliente de su cualificación y su capacidad para proveer servicios legales además de explicar que era un abogado especializado en inmigración. Pero aquel no era uno de los muchos ecuatorianos que se acercaban a su oficina en la ciudad sino un inspector encubierto del Departamento de Asuntos de Consumidores (DCA).

Esa acción permitió a ese departamento abrir una investigación que se cerró este viernes con un cuerdo, en el cual se obliga a Buitrón a pagar $150,000 en multas y devolver $34,050 a consumidores que han sido identificados en este caso. Adicionalmente tendrá que revelar que no tiene la cualificación para proveer servicio legal y eliminar la referencia al otro abogado en su material informativo.

La investigación del DCA determinó que Buitrón no estaba licenciado para practicar derecho en ninguna jurisdicción, hacía publicidad engañosa de su negocio incluyendo a “Jack Sachs –Abogado” en su página web, tarjetas de negocios y otros materiales impresos a pesar de no tener relación con Sachs. Eso, no le impidió cobrar a los consumidores miles de dólares por sus servicios y su asesoramiento legal.

Además, Buitrón también cobró a los consumidores sin proveer un contrato legal o recibo y amenazaba con reportar a las autoridades a esos inmigrantes si no le pagaban, según explicó este viernes el DCA a través de un comunicado. Uno de los problemas es que ofrecía en su web, sus avisos y sus tarjetas “el visado de 10 años” (10 years visa), una opción que hace tiempo se calificó como un fraude porque se aseguraba a indocumentados que podían obtener una visa o carta verde si habían vivido en el país durante 10 años. En ningún momento se informaba a los clientes que para entrar en ese proceso hay que iniciar un procedimiento de deportación y probar la situación de extrema e inusual dureza en la que quedan los miembros de la familia.

Este proceso conlleva un riesgo muy elevado que debe ser calculado por las familias con toda la información posible.

Muchos consumidores han caído en este timo en otros negocios de la ciudad y el DCA anima a que se hagan llegar las quejas llamando al 311 o directamente a este departamento de consumidores. Todos los inmigrantes, incluso los indocumentados, pueden acceder a los servicios de la Ciudad y nadie les va a preguntar su estatus. Quienes tienen preguntas sobre inmigración pueden hablar con un abogado cualificado sin costo alguno y en sus vecindarios llamando al 311 y pidiendo por “Action NYC”.

Para estar alerta

El DCA sugiere que preste atención a lo siguiente en cuestiones de inmigración:

  1. No crea a ninguna persona que le va a ofrecer un servicio que tiene influencia entre las autoridades de inmigración.
  2. En el estado de NY un notario público no es un abogado y por tanto no puede ofrecer asesoramiento legal, redactar documentos legales o revisar la legalidad de lo que se le presente.
  3. Si contacta con una persona que no es un proveedor autorizado de servicios de inmigración no puede más que leerle formularios, traducirlos y transcribir información que el cliente provea.
  4. Antes de iniciar un procedimiento de inmigración obtenga una segunda opinión.

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Congresista federal pide explicaciones por operativos de agentes de inmigración (VIDEO)

Un congresista federal dijo que ha pedido explicaciones a las autoridades del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional (DHS) por los operativos de agentes de inmigración que han dejado alrededor de 40 inmigrantes arrestados en diferentes ciudades de Carolina del Norte.

“He hablando con oficiales de ICE sobre estas redadas en Carolina del Norte y les preguntado qué esta pasando, cuál es la racionalidad de estas redadas”, dijo el legislador demócrata David Price, quien representa a Carolina del Norte en la Cámara de Representantes de Estados Unidos. “Estamos en el proceso, por supuesto, de lidiar con casos individuales pero también estamos pidiendo que haya responsabilidad por esto”.

RELACIONADO:  Se organizan para responder a operativos de ICE

Price declaró en una conferencia de prensa luego de reunirse con la esposa de un inmigrante hondureño arrestado la semana pasada por agentes del Servicio de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) en Hillsborough, y con autoridades locales y miembros de El Centro Hispano.

La esposa del hondureño Edwin Enamorado, que no quiso ser identificada por su nombre, dijo que el arresto ocurrió alrededor de las ocho de la mañana del martes 10 de abril cuando agentes de inmigración tocaron la puerta de su casa y dijeron estar buscando a una persona.

“Engañaron a mi hija para entrar a la casa”, dijo la mujer que llevaba en brazos a su hijo menor de 10 años. “Dijeron que  buscaban a otra persona, que no nos iban a pedir ID a nosotros, sólo a ella”.

La mujer contó que su hija de 18 años, ciudadana estadounidense, abrió la puerta y dejó pasar a los agentes de inmigración sin sospechar que éstos le pedirían los papeles a sus padres.

RELACIONADO: Arrestan a pastor latino por fraude contra cientos de inmigrantes (VIDEO)

“Ella comenzó a llorar y les dijo que ‘solo a mi me iban a pedir ID, y se puso a llorar porque le dijeron que solo querían ver la casa”, dijo la mujer que dijo ser madre de tres hijos y de nacionalidad mexicana.

La mujer dijo que Enamorado no tenía antecedentes criminales y que era pastor.

“No me gustó la manera que se llevaron a mi esposo”, dijo. “Lo amarraron como si fuera un asesino pero él no es un asesino, mi esposo es un pastor, él predica y ayuda a la comunidad”.

En la misma casa, ICE arrestó también a otro inmigrante, Otelio Mondragón.

MundoHispánico preguntó al portavoz de ICE para el área del sureste sobre los motivos de esos arrestos y el historial de los detenidos, pero hasta la publicación de este reporte no hubo respuesta alguna.

Congresista condenó redadas

Price condenó esos arrestos y también las tácticas utilizadas por los agentes de inmigración. Afirmó que en ausencia de una reforma migratoria, se necesitaba una política de aplicación de la ley que sea selectiva y transparente.

“Si vamos a priorizar la aplicación de la ley, la detención y la deportción, esto tiene que enfocarse en gente que es una amenaza para la comunidad, que está cometiendo crímenes serios, y pienso que la mayoría está de acuerdo con eso”, dijo el legislador.

RELACIONADO: ICE arresta a tres hermanos latinos tras error de uno de ellos

Autoridades locales como la alcaldesa de Carrboro, Lydia Lavelle, así como concejales de Carrboro y Chapel Hill, así como comisionados del condado Orange, también participaron de la reunión y rechazaron la actividad de ICE en el área.

“Queremos asegurarnos que la comunidad entienda que a nivel local, nosotros queremos que se sientan seguros y bienvenidos”, dijo Lavalle, al deslindar cualquier participación de la policía u otra autoridades locales en los operativos de agentes de inmigración.

De acuerdo con el vocero de ICE, la semana pasada fueron arrestados unos 25 inmigrantes indocumentados en el área del Triángulo, que incluye zonas de los condados Orange y Durham alrededor de la zona metropolitana de la capital estatal, Raleigh.

Además, ICE arrestó a unas 15 personas en el oeste del estado, en el área metropolitana de Asheville, de acuerdo con el vocero de la agencia federal, quien asegura que los operativos son rutinarios y que no se realizan al azar.

Ayudan a familias afectadas y busca prevenir más arrestos

Miembros del Centro Hispano dijeron que además de apoyar a las familias afectadas, han iniciado una campaña para informar a la comunidad inmigrante sobre sus derechos y cómo actuar ante los agentes de inmigración.

“Ya creamos unas tarjetas que vamos a estar dando, que tienen sus derechos en un lado en inglés y en español y que les pueden dar a los oficiales si por algún motivo tienen que confrotnarse con ellos”, dijo Eleazar Posada, organizador comunitario de El Centro Hispano en Durham.

“También estamos haciendo más talleres de conozca sus derechos, no solamente aquí en el condado Orange, sino también en Durham”, añadió.

TE PUEDE INTERESAR: Detenido por llevar a su hijo en el asiento trasero

El Centro Hispano también está recolectando donaciones para las familias afectadas y planea crear una red de personas que sean residentes legales o ciudadanos estadounidenses, para que que puedan verificar y reportar la presencia de agentes de ICE en los condados de Orange y Durham.

La idea surgió de un entrenamiento realizado esta semana en Chapel Hill por la organización Siembra NC, para establecer una coalición estatal que pueda responder ante los reportes de agentes de ICE en las comunidades locales.


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Delayed Brexit immigration plans ‘due in months’

Delayed proposals for Britain’s post-Brexit immigration policy will be published “in the coming months”, Downing Street has said.

The immigration bill would establish new rules for EU migrants to the UK after free movement ends.

An official policy document had been expected last autumn and the Times reports a “cabinet row” over delays.

The PM’s spokesman said ministers were “confident” the new system would be ready “for when we leave the EU”.

The immigration bill was in last year’s Queen’s Speech – it would enable the government to end the free movement of EU nationals into the UK but ministers said it would allow the country to attract “the brightest and the best”.

Last October, then immigration minister Brandon Lewis said a White Paper would be published in autumn 2017 with the bill being brought forward “in the New Year”.

In February, the home affairs committee noted there was still “considerable uncertainty about when the White Paper will be published” and said the delays had caused “anxiety for EU citizens in the UK, uncertainty for UK businesses and concern in Parliament”.

The Times reported on Friday that Brexit-supporting ministers were putting pressure on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to speed up the bill, amid concerns ministers want to use preferential access for EU workers as a bargaining chip with Brussels in Brexit talks.

Asked about the report, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “We’re considering a range of options for the future immigration system which will be based on the evidence.

“We will set out initial plans and publish a White Paper in the coming months with a bill to follow.”

Ms Rudd told the home affairs committee in March that the bill would be published “early next year” to establish new rules for 2021 – arguing that the agreement reached with the EU on citizens’ rights had “to a certain extent” had removed the urgency.

The Home Office said the transition period agreement meant that the immigration bill “will not be needed until after this period ends in December 2020. The bills will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows”.

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Amber Rudd boasted of harsher immigration strategy, leak reveals

Exclusive: home secretary told PM she would give officials more ‘teeth’ to deport migrants

Amber Rudd and Theresa May

Amber Rudd promised in a letter to Theresa May that she would deport thousands more illegal migrants.
Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Amber Rudd privately boasted to the prime minister that she would give immigration officials more “teeth” to hunt down and deport thousands more illegal migrants and accelerate the UK’s deportation programme, a leaked private letter has revealed.

In a robust private memo to Theresa May just months before long-settled Windrush migrants were threatened with deportation, Rudd set out her “ambitious” plan to increase removals and focus officials on “arresting, detaining and forcibly removing illegal migrants” while “ruthlessly” prioritising Home Office resources to that programme .

The four-page document, obtained exclusively by the Guardian, reveals Rudd promised the prime minister she would oversee the forced or voluntary departure of 10% more people than May managed when she was home secretary, partly by switching money for crime-fighting to her immigration enforcement programme. Her goal implied she wanted to throw out an extra 4,000 illegal migrants every year.

The letter was sent on 30 January 2017. A few months later Paulette Wilson, a grandmother from Jamaica who had lived in Britain for 50 years, became the first of more than 20 Windrush migrants to tell the Guardian how they were facing deportation or a loss of rights to health, housing and work because of Home Office policy.

A paragraph from Amber Rudd’s letter to Theresa May

A paragraph from Amber Rudd’s letter to Theresa May. Photograph: Guardian

The aggressive language and tone of Rudd’s approach to immigration enforcement emerged after the home secretary attempted to blame officials in her own department for the Windrush scandal in which it emerged up to 50,000 mostly Commonwealth migrants were facing possible deportation despite having lived in Britain for decades.

Rudd claimed in parliament on Monday she was “concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual”.

That appeared to be an attempt to suggest she had inherited a hardline system from May, who as home secretary announced a policy to create “a really hostile environment for illegal migrants” across government departments.

But in the private memo, Rudd said she believed in the fundamental importance of that hostile environment agenda, which she referred to as the “compliant environment”, an attempted rebranding of the policy by ministers a few months earlier.

The culture that agenda inspired has been widely blamed for members of the Windrush-era generation being threatened in recent months with deportation and denied access to housing, healthcare and jobs.

In 2016, 39,626 people were deported or left the UK voluntarily, according to the UK Migration Observatory, but Rudd’s letter to May indicates a home secretary determined to make her mark and toughen up even further an immigration enforcement regime which uses liveried vans that have become an increasingly common sight in areas with large migrant communities.

Paragraph from Rudd's letter to May

‘Illegal and would-be illegal migrants … need to know that our immigration system has ‘teeth’, Rudd wrote. Photograph: Guardian

She wrote: “Illegal and would-be illegal migrants and the public more widely, need to know that our immigration system has ‘teeth’, and that if people do not comply on their own we will enforce their return, including through arresting and detaining them. That is why I will be refocusing immigration enforcement’s work to concentrate on enforced removals. In particular I will be reallocating £10m (including from low-level crime and intelligence) with the aim of increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10% over the next few years: something I believe is ambitious, but deliverable.”

Rudd told May her proposals to reduce the overall illegal population had been “informed by the review that you commissioned whilst home secretary”. She concluded: “Everything I have outlined above is aimed not just at radically reshaping and refocusing immigration enforcement but at increasing the public’s confidence in our immigration system.”

Nowhere in the memo does Rudd mention the possible human cost of getting her immigration policy wrong.

Rudd told May that her strategy was “informed by the review that you commissioned as home secretary”. On Thursday, Nick Clegg, who was deputy prime minister from 2010 to 2015, said May’s Home Office had pursued “nasty politics” over immigration.

“They kept resorting to these glib silly unproven headline-grabbing gimmicks and that does create the administrative climate when someone somewhere down the food chain thinks … [for example] we won’t take on good faith what the Windrush generation is saying to us.”

Rudd’s memo was sent as the government stepped up its attempts to bring net migration down into the tens of thousands. The previous year, the figure was 248,000. Four months earlier, May rebooted the government’s immigration taskforce, chairing a committee of 12 cabinet ministers – including the three key Brexit supporters, Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davis – to ensure a new regime was introduced to slash the net number of arrivals into the UK to below 100,000 a year.

Other measures she told May about included obtaining biometric data from countries such as Pakistan, which she said could be “a potential game changer in terms of the numbers we can remove”. She asked for the prime minister’s help to persuade the leaders of other countries to supply such data.

Rudd also said she wanted illegal migrants who were being housed in detention centres before removal to either be sent back to their origin country, released into the community on licence, or tagged to free up beds for the new people that her immigration enforcement team will be picking up.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Illegal immigration impacts the whole of society, putting pressure on taxpayer-funded public services, leaving vulnerable people at the mercy of exploitative employers or landlords, and at worst, fuelling the abhorrent crimes of modern slavery and human trafficking.

“People from the Windrush generation are of course here legally. The Home Secretary has recognised the huge contribution they have made to our society, and has apologised unreservedly to them. We are taking urgent action to help them to evidence their legal right to live in the UK, and have set up a dedicated taskforce to do so.

“It is wilfully misleading to conflate the situation experienced by people from the Windrush generation with measures in place to tackle illegal immigration and protect the UK taxpayer. It is clearly essential that we continue to take action against people who are here illegally.”

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