When President Obama set out on immigration reform, one central idea was to shift the enforcement focus away from those immigrants who are settled and established in their communities and toward those who are newly arrived or who are destructive in their communities. As updated policies take effect, this effort continues to take shape.
Since President Obama announced a series of executive actions in November of last year, implementation of his expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been met with court challenges. Despite this, some elements of the executive order are moving forward without legal challenge could well substantially impact immigration enforcement protocols.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing new enforcement priorities with updated policy guidance that targets unauthorized immigrants and other noncitizens who’ve committed serious crimes as priority in terms of enforcement.
In a paper published in July by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), author Marc Rosenblum, the organization’s deputy director of U.S. immigration policy, describes the context of the new enforcement priorities as building on those Obama Administration guidelines established in 2010 and 2011. The guidance “further targets enforcement to noncitizens who have been convicted of serious crimes, are threats to public safety, are recent illegal entrants, or have violated recent deportation orders.”
Under Rosneblum’s assessment of the new enforcement paradigm, around 13 percent of unauthorized immigrants who are living in the United States would be considered as priority targets. This is compared to 27 percent of the same unauthorized population who would be targeted under the 2010-2011 enforcement guidelines.
“The net effect of this new guidance will likely be a reduction in deportations from within the interior of the United States as DHS detention and deportation resources are increasingly allocated to more explicitly defined priorities,” Rosenblum writes in his report. The net effect is “likely to reduce deportations from within the United States by about 25,000 cases—bringing interior removals below the 100,000 mark.”
The key area of offset insofar as the reduced number of removals from the country’s interior is the high priority of the Southern border. According to MPI, DHS will maintain top priority on the removal of unauthorized immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
MPI characterizes the policy shift as offering an extra layer of protection to an estimated 87 percent of unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States.