Deportation of undocumented immigrants who have no serious criminal records will be reduced considerably as a result of new immigration policies enacted in November by President Barack Obama’s administration, according to a new report issued last week.
The 36-page study released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a respected immigration research institution in Washington D.C., says the new policies are likely to reduce deportations from within the United States by about 25,000 cases per year and eventually extend protection from removal to a much broader number of undocumented immigrants.
This is because for the first time in decades, the administration promises to focus mainly on deporting foreign nationals with serious criminal convictions as opposed to prior policies under which non-criminal and criminal immigrants were deported without much regard to priorities.
“Changes to the immigration enforcement system ordered by President Obama could, if strictly implemented, offer a degree of protection from deportation to 87 percent of the nation’s estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants, up from about 73 percent under earlier guideless,” according to an MPI statement.
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“The effect of the new policy guidance on deportation will depend to a large degree on implementation”, said MPI senior fellow Doris Meissner, a former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Commissioner.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the MPI report had accurately explained that the new policies will spare many from deportation.
“I announced our new enforcement priorities which focus our resources on public safety and border security, while deprioritizing those undocumented who have been here for years, committed no serious crimes, and have in effect become integrated members of society.” Johnson said in a statement after the MPI released the report.
Deportation policies listed in the report are being implanted because they are separate from the presidential executive actions issued to shield from expulsion undocumented foreign-born parents of U.S. citizen or resident children and foreign nationals brought to the United States as children by their undocumented parents. These two policies have been put on hold by a federal judge in Brownsville, Texas, who ruled against the presidential executive actions. The administration is appealing the judge’s order.
The new immigration enforcement policies mark a definite shift in U.S. deportation strategies, according to the report. Prior to November, when President Barack Obama issued his executive actions, record numbers of undocumented immigrants were being deported annually – mostly a mixture of foreign nationals with and without criminal convictions.
Under the new policies, the emphasis will be on deporting four categories of undocumented foreign nationals: those deemed national security threats, those detained immediately after crossing the border, those who are gang members and those with felony convictions.
On the other hand, the report says, increased protections against deportation may shield noncitizens convicted of less than three misdemeanors, those who have retuned to the United States illegally before Jan. 1, 2014 after being previously deported and those subject to a final order of removal issued before Jan. 1, 2014.
This suggests that a large number of undocumented immigrants who have a less than serious criminal record and those with deportation orders and deportations that occurred long ago could remain in the country under new prosecutorial discretion guidelines authorized by the administration.
“The projected decline in interior removals results from the fact that the enforcement priorities are defined narrowly, so that about 87 percent of unauthorized immigrants in the United States as of 2015 likely fall outside of all three priority categories, up from 73 percent who would be outside the priority categories under the 2010-11 enforcement guidelines,” the MPI report says.
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