Immigration Law

Deportation priorities will expand to include those convicted of even minor crimes

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The federal government will expand an Obama administration policy that prioritized deportations by focusing on those who commit serious crimes, according to guidance memos released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, according to an immigration-enforcement memo (PDF), priorities have been expanded to remove those who commit any criminal offense (even if the charges haven’t been resolved or even been brought), as well as those who abuse public benefits programs or who engage in fraud before any public agency. Also a priority for removal are those who “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.” Politico, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times are among the publications that covered the documents, which describe how the department intends to implement President Donald J. Trump’s executive orders on immigration. The other memo, on border security, is here (PDF); fact sheets are here (PDF) and here (PDF).

Even those convicted of traffic crimes would be a priority, according to AP. The memo says all “removable aliens” could be subject to the new guidelines, which would include legal immigrants with criminal records, Politico explains.

The memos also detail plans to expand expedited removals. The Obama administration had confined such removals to those picked up within 100 miles of the border who had been in the country illegally no more than 14 days. Now, the expedited removal process can be used for those in any part of the country illegally for up to two years.

The memos do not revoke President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children to remain and work in the United States. However, those protected by that program still could be deported for crimes or threats to public safety.

To handle the additional workload, the department will hire 10,000 immigration and customs agents, as well as “additional mission support and legal staff,” according to one of the fact sheets. Another 5,000 border patrol agents also will be hired.

The department also would expand a program that empowers local law enforcement to help with immigration enforcement. And the memo describes a plan to use an obscure provision of federal law that allows those who illegally cross the Mexican border in the United States to be sent back to Mexico, even if they are from other countries.

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