ICE Enforcement

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE Immigration Enforcement and the Immigration Policy

During the Obama administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) prioritized immigrants that had a criminal history. ICE also prioritized those who were perceived as a threat to national security. ICE mostly targeted individuals for deportation with felony convictions, gang members or suspected terrorists. Typically, so-called illegal immigrants were those without a serious criminal history or negative immigration history. They were not targeted to be deported by ICE. Today, the Department of Homeland Security no longer exempts categories of individuals from potential enforcement so they are subject to detention and deportation. ICE now prioritizes individuals to deport who are:

  • inadmissible to the United States on fraud, criminal, or national security grounds,
  • have abused any public benefits program, or
  • have been granted a final order of removal, but haven’t departed the United States.
  • More importantly, enforcement will now focus on individuals who have been convicted or charged with any criminal offense or who have committed acts that constitute a criminal offense.

Why Immigrants Should Be Concerned

This last category (above), those who have committed acts that constitute a criminal offense, is particularly concerning for those who don’t have legal immigration status or may be legal under deferred action in the U.S. because it potentially covers minor infractions, such as a traffic ticket. It may also refer to individuals who unlawfully entered the U.S. (“illegal aliens”) This means there are no longer any meaningful ICE enforcement priorities; every “illegal immigrant,” is a priority under the new policy.

Of course, a change in immigration policies and an expansion of enforcement priorities of this magnitude requires resources that the Department of Homeland Security and immigration services simply do not have and they will not get it unless Congress decides to increase its funding, likely under some comprehensive immigration reform. In the meantime, just as before, USCIS officials must use their prosecutorial discretion in determining how immigration detention and deportation will occur. 

ICE immirgation

Contact an North Carolina & California Immigration Attorney

Because ICE enforcement has changed, it is more important than ever for anyone who is unlawfully present in the U.S. or are legal under the dream act to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to see if they have a pathway to legal status under current immigration law. Individuals who have started the process of getting legal status are in the best position to fight deportation. Many undocumented immigrants qualify for immigration benefits and don’t even know it. Don’t wait until it’s too late. We have locations across North Carolina and Tustin, California. Call our experienced North Carolina & California immigration attorneys are here to help. Your initial consultation is always free.

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