27 February 2017

ICE Expands Its Scope To Target More Illegal Aliens

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will use a much wider net to arrest undocumented immigrants, doing away with the Obama administration’s priorities that had shielded millions of people living in the U.S. illegally, lawmakers said last 17 February.

According to Democrats who met with ICE officials, the agency said that it will continue to target immigrants with criminal convictions, but that agents will now be free to arrest anyone else they encounter who is in the United States illegally, doing away with Obama administration priorities that shielded millions without criminal records from deportation.

"They said that we can and should expect many more arrests and removals this year," said House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier, who attended the Thursday night meeting between ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan and congressional leadership.

Under the new policy, Sanchez said, "essentially anybody who has an immigration status violation is a priority for deportation."

"The message is that everybody is at risk,” said Sanchez. ICE’s “only limitation,” she added, “is its own resources.”

Supporters of immigration restrictions have applauded the changes.

“This removes a lot of the restrictions that were put on ICE agents,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies. President Donald Trump has essentially taken the handcuffs off immigration enforcement agents, she said.

“ICE is not going to have to wait for someone to commit a terrible crime or ignore someone that they encounter on the street,” Vaughan said. “They can go back to enforcing the law.”

But questions remain about ICE’s new enforcement policies. In the absence of clear priorities, legal experts say it will likely fall to individual agents to determine which immigrants are detained and deported.