On February 20, 2017 The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a Memo outlining the new enforcement priorities for ICE. People that are priority for removal are those that:
(1) have been convicted of a criminal offense;
(2) have been charged with a criminal offense that has not been resolved;
(3) have committed criminal acts;
(4) have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation for any government purpose;
(5) Have abused the receipt of public benefits;
(6) Are subject to a final order of removal and have not complied with their obligation to leave the country;
(7) And those that pose a public safety or national security.
There will be no mass deportations and DACA will remain in effect. ICE will concentrate on indentifying individuals that fit into the above categories.
This is not intended to cause panic or fear but to explain. To put things into perspective, during the Obama Administration, Immigration and Customs Data reported that from 2014 to 2016 there were roughly 300,000 deportations. Approximately 60% of those deportations were immigrants with no criminal conviction or whose only crime was immigration-related, such as illegal entry or re-entry. 21% were convicted of nonviolent crimes other than immigration. Less than 20% had potentially violent convictions, such as assault, DUI or weapons offenses. If you look at the list above and the percentage of people the Obama Administration deported, it is clear that ICE is focused on the same groups of people.
So what has changed? ICE expanded the priority list to include people with prior deportation orders that did not leave the country. They also made it clear that they will enforce current immigration laws. ICE has always had the power to detain people that do not have legal status in the United States. This usually happens when a person is apprehended by law enforcement and detained for non-immigration reasons.
So now what? Many people are frightened about the new policies that have been put in place. It is important to remember that if you are apprehended, it does not mean you will be deported. Instead, you will need to fight to prove that you should be permitted to remain in the U.S. It is important to remember that there still could be a solution. And if you are placed in removal proceedings there are still ways to win your case. If you have a question about how the new priority list will affect your current case, or if you have a question on whether you qualify for an opportunity to obtain legal status, consult an attorney to help guide you and help you determine what you are eligible for.