Obama’s policies may alter dragnet
Think tank predicts fewer deportations with shift in enforcement
The Obama administration’s profound shift in its enforcement of immigration laws could “substantially transform” the nation’s immigration dragnet, reducing deportations and protecting nearly 90 percent of the illegal immigrants already here, a new report says.
As The Washington Post reported this month, the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure that the majority of the United States’ 11.3 million undocumented immigrants can stay in this country. The changes are designed to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society rather than targeting them for deportation.
On Thursday, the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new policies are likely to reduce deportations within the United States by about 25,000 cases each year. In a 31page report, the institute also said the changes, if fully implemented, will “offer a degree of protection” from deportation to 87 percent of illegal immigrants.
“Overall, the new enforcement policies . . . have the potential to substantially transform the U.S. deportation system, particularly within the U.S. interior,” said the report, authored by Marc R. Rosenblum, deputy director of the institute’s U.S. Immigration Policy Program.
In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he was “pleased” by the report, one of the first independent assessments of the steps Johnson is taking to reshape immigration policy.
With little fanfare, DHS has since January been training thousands of immigration agents nationwide to change their everyday enforcement of immigration laws. The new policies direct agents to focus on three priority groups of illegal migrants— convicted criminals, terrorism threats and those who recently crossed the border— and leave virtually everybody else alone.
On Johnson’s orders, officials have been reviewing the population of immigrant detainees — and each of the estimated 400,000 cases in the nation’s clogged immigration courts— to weed out those who don’t meet the new priorities. At least 3,000 people have been released from custody or have had their immigration cases dropped, DHS officials have said.
The policy changes are separate from the court fight over President Obama’s highly publicized executive action on immigration. That battle centers on the constitutionality of a program that would officially shield as many as 5 million eligible illegal immigrants from deportation, mainly parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. A federal judge put the program on hold in February after 26 states sued.
The new policies are likely to reduce deportations by about 25,000 cases each year.