Enforcement Priorities May Reduce Deportations

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute indicates changes to immigration enforcement policies should “significantly transform the U.S. deportation system.”

The Department of Homeland Security is adopting new policy guidance for deportation priorities that stemmed from President Barrack Obama’s executive actions on immigration announced in November.

The report estimates that if the department adheres to the changes it could reduce deportations by 25,000 cases each year. Part of the reduction will be in the interior of the country by closing the cases of immigrants who have been in the country for decades without committing crimes and shifting the focus to recent border-crossers.

“I am pleased that the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute has taken note of our initiative to substantially transform the U.S. deportation system,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. “We still need comprehensive reform to fix the nation’s broken immigration laws. We will continue to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to remove the most dangerous convicted criminals and individuals who pose a threat to our nation’s security.”


The biggest shift in enforcement priorities is at the border, said Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of MPI’s U.S. Immigration Policy Program and author of the report.

Border crossers will be considered a top priority for deportation no matter their criminal background.

The 2014 policy guidance “further targets enforcement to non-citizens who have been convicted of serious crimes, are threats to public safety, are recent illegal entrants or have violated recent deportation orders,” the report said.

An estimated 13 percent of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. would be considered enforcement priorities under the new policies, a decrease from previous policies that put 27 percent of undocumented immigrants as top priorities, the report showed.

The Priority Enforcement Program replaces a controversial information-sharing program known as Secure Communities.

 The new program still shares fingerprint data collected at local jails when immigrants are arrested.

“What’s a little different in Arizona is that in their normal course of their police work, police there question people about their status, so you may have Arizona police reaching out to ICE outside of the priority enforcement program to let them know about someone they suspect is unauthorized,” Rosenblum said.

“Whether or not something is going to change in Arizona really depends on what happens when Border Patrol or ICE gets that call.”

The policy changes are separate from Obama’s deferred deportation programs that would shield millions of parents of U.S. citizen children from deportation. The implementation of those programs remains on hold pending court cases.