Cobos Law Firm Blog

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ICE Civil Enforcement Priorities: What Does it Mean for Deportations?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently issued guidelines to clarify the Administration’s announcement regarding the agency’s new immigration enforcement. The new procedures were developed to ensure limited resources are focused on the removal (deportation) of the highest priority individuals.

Under the new priorities, enforcement personnel, detention space and removal resources are directed toward the following categories of individuals, in descending order of importance:

  1. Aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety
  2. Recent illegal entrants
  3. Aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration controls

The guidelines clarify how the new process enhances border security by reallocating resources toward preventing illicit trade and travel across the border. Immigration and federal judges can quickly adjudicate high priority cases, thus freeing up additional resources which, in turn, further enhance the identification and removal of those who pose a threat to public safety. This is accomplished, in part, by identifying and accelerating the deportation of high priority aliens. Very low priority cases are also identified and, on a case-by-case basis, granted prosecutorial discretion to allow for additional resources to be focused on high priority matters.

The guidelines are explicit in stating that this new process does not constitute administrative amnesty. There is no reduction in immigration enforcement; however, the new process will increase the number of criminal aliens and repeat violators who are removed from the United States. Those who benefit from prosecutorial discretion will not receive permanent lawful status, and will not automatically obtain a green card. Rather, they can apply for work authorization and pay the fees, and their requests will be considered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with longstanding federal law.

An illegal immigrant – even a “low priority” alien – who voluntarily surrenders to ICE will not be granted prosecutorial discretion and very likely will be placed in removal proceedings. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is continuing to enforce its zero tolerance policy for those who are apprehended at the border. Recent border crossers are excluded from the list of cases being reviewed to determine whether prosecutorial discretion may be granted.

When used properly, prosecutorial discretion will save a great deal of resources, which can be devoted to expeditiously pursuing the removal of aliens who threaten public safety and border security. Estimates suggest that it costs about $25,000 to formally remove an alien from the U.S. By redirecting these funds to the highest priority offenders, ICE hopes to more efficiently identify and remove those individuals who pose the greatest threat.  If you are in removal proceedings, we are here to provide you with dedicated legal representation.  Franz Cobos, Esq.

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