On Dec. 21 Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau Director John Morton announced a new policy that further limits the categories of illegal aliens targeted for deportation. Morton also said ICE will not renew any agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies that operate investigative units under the 287(g) program.
"Smart and effective immigration enforcement relies on setting priorities for removal and executing on those priorities," Morton said in a statement. "In order to further enhance our ability to focus enforcement efforts on serious offenders, we are changing who ICE will issue detainers against."
The new policy guidance “limits the use of detainers to individuals who meet the department's enforcement priorities and restricts the use of detainers against individuals arrested for minor misdemeanor offenses such as traffic offenses and other petty crimes.” ICE Agents are directed to issue deportation detainers only for those who have a prior felony conviction, were previously deported, have three or more prior misdemeanor convictions, or have prior or current charges involving violence, sexual abuse, drunk driving, or unlawful possession of a firearm.
The policy change, which applies only to ICE operations, is the latest enforcement-narrowing measure to be implemented. Earlier this year, DHS announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives a two-year stay of deportation and a work permit to illegal aliens who arrived before the age of 16 and are under the age of 31.
Peter Nunez, former U.S. Attorney in San Diego, disagrees with the policy and said it violates existing laws. “To the extent that ICE/DHS comes into contact with any illegal alien who is subject to deportation, that alien should be arrested and subjected to the deportation process, Nunez said. “That’s the law. This is just the latest expansion of an on-going amnesty that the White House is determined to implement, in violation of the President’s sworn duty to uphold the law.”
Morton also said ICE will not to renew any investigative (“task force”) agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies under the 287(g) program. He said “ICE has concluded that other enforcement programs, including Secure Communities, are a more efficient use of resources for focusing on priority cases.”
Local officers working under a “task force” agreement can do more than just access immigration records like under a 287(g) correctional agreement. Officers can question and investigate foreign-born individuals who are still at large or under suspicion. They can use immigration law tools in pursuing complex investigations in areas such as organized crime, human smuggling, drug trafficking and distribution, gangs, and document fraud. The end of 287(g) task force agreements will result in more criminal aliens being released because they “flew under the radar screen,” according to Jessica Vaughan from the Center for Immigration Studies.
Morton released the fiscal year 2012 deportation numbers on Dec. 21 to underscore the Administration's enforcement re-prioritization. In FY 2012 ICE removed 409,849 illegal aliens. Of these, approximately 55 percent of the people removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. That’s almost double the removal of criminals in FY 2008. After the DACA policy took effect in the final five weeks of the fiscal year, 78 percent of all aliens removed had criminal records — up 50 percent from before DACA.
ICE also removed 86,590 illegal aliens who were repeat immigration-law violators, almost 10,000 who were fugitives after a judge ordered them deported, and over 60,000 who were caught at the border but placed in ICE custody. Those ICE border removals were in addition to the illegal aliens the Border Patrol returned to their home countries.