A leaked memo signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly would radically change the rules for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These changes will have major consequences for all undocumented immigrants who have been in the US for less than two years. The memo would erase most of the Obama administration’s guidance as to ICE priorities. ICE would be permitted to use “expedited removals” for any undocumented immigrant caught anywhere in the US. Expedited removal is a process that bypasses the immigration courts and allows for immediate deportations. Previously, ICE was instructed to use this procedure only if an individual was caught within 100 miles of a border and within 14 days of entry. If enforced, this memo will make it extremely difficult for individuals who have been in the US for less than two years to see an immigration judge.
The memo notes that all undocumented individuals will be “prioritized” for deportation. Specifically, an individual is at a higher risk if one of the following factors apply:
- Criminal offense conviction
- Criminal offense charged, or simply committed, but not yet resolved
- Lying or concealing information on any government form
- Abuse of welfare or public benefits program
- Final order of removal issue
Additionally, ICE officers can use their discretion to deport any undocumented immigrant they encounter without regards to the above factors.
For now, the DACA program is allowed continue, but the memo says that even DACA recipients can be considered for deportation if they fall in to one of the above categories.
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has also received new guidance. They are ending the “catch and release“ program in which individuals caught entering at the southern border were detained and released to later appear before an immigration judge. Now individuals will be detained and returned unless they pass a “credible fear” interview, which could mean weeks of detention.
ICE will be hiring an additional 10,000 immigration officers and expanding their 287g program. The 287g program is an agreement between ICE and the local police to report any undocumented immigrants encountered during normal policing.
If you, a family member, or a friend fall into any of these categories, you need to prepare yourself to fight against deportation in the immigration court process.