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What You May Have Missed About the President’s Immigration Action

When the President announced the executive actions he was taking on Immigration back in November, most of the focus was on the expansion of DACA and the creation of DAPA. What a lot of people missed was what the Department of Homeland Security did about who should be deported from the United States.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a memo in November 2014 that narrowed the categories of immigrants targeted for deportation. Following in the footsteps of President Obama’s call to prioritize how DHS Immigration enforcement resources are used, the DHS memo released in November expands the concept of prosecutorial discretion to almost every aspect of the Department’s immigration enforcement process, from which immigrants to pursue to which immigrants to prosecute.

DHS now categorizes its immigration enforcement priorities into three categories:

Priority 1: threats to national security, border security, and public safety Priority 2: misdemeanants and new immigration violators Priority 3: other immigration violations
Enforcement agents have been instructed to focus on those three categories and those three categories alone. “If people are not an enforcement priority … bottom line, the secretary has said don’t go after them,” is how one DHS official categorized the new policies at DHS. While the memo goes on to state that the Department certainly retains the right to deport any one that is in the country and undocumented, Secretary Johnson is on record saying “We are making it clear that we should not expend our limited recourses on deporting those who have been here for years, have committed no serious crimes and have, in effect, become integrated members of our society.”

This new system of deportations comes as a sigh of relief to a community that had dubbed President Obama the “deporter in chief” because of his record number of deportations after becoming President. According to Pew Research, a record 438,000 undocumented immigrants were deported in FY13, less than half of them for crimes. That number dropped 14% to 316,000 in FY14, a record low under President Obama, and is expected to drop even lower this year, to around 229,000.

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