Throughout the entire litigation over DAPA, the Administration has insisted over and over and over again that this administration is deporting more Americans than ever, and Texas can’t possibly claim an abdication of authority because DHS is deporting more people than ever. Now, The Washington Post reports that new DHS policies will decrease the number of deportations for aliens that are not “convicted criminals, terrorism threats or those who recently crossed the border,” and instead focus on “integrating” these preferred aliens.
The Obama administration has begun a profound shift in its enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, aiming to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society rather than targeting them for deportation, according to documents and federal officials.
In recent months, 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, with agents narrowing enforcement efforts to three groups of illegal migrants: convicted criminals, terrorism threats or those who recently crossed the border.
While public attention has been focused on the court fight over President Obama’s highly publicized executive action on immigration, DHS has with little fanfare been training thousands of immigration agents nationwide to carry out new policies on everyday enforcement.
While this policy lacks the hallmark of DAPA and DACA–providing work authorization–it is a much wider ranging abdication of enforcement of the immigration laws. Only aliens who fit into the class of dangerous aliens are not presumptively deportable.
But the shift in DHS’s enforcement priorities, which are separate from the DAPA program and have not been challenged in court, could prove even more far-reaching.
The new policies direct agents to focus on the three priority groups and leave virtually everyone else alone. Demographic data shows that the typical undocumented immigrant has lived in the United States for a decade or more and has established strong community ties.
Although the new measures do not grant illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, their day-to-day lives could be changed in countless ways. Now, for instance, undocumented migrants say they are so afraid to interact with police, for fear of being deported, that they won’t report crimes and often limit their driving to avoid possible traffic stops. The new policies, if carried out on the ground, could dispel such fears, advocates for immigrants say.
This is remarkable. It goes far beyond the argument that DHS lacks the resources to deport everyone here illegally. But now, they are moving the goal posts even further, so that removal isn’t even a priority at all!
In describing the initiatives, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has echoed the language often used by advocates of comprehensive immigration reform, which remains stalled on Capitol Hill.
“We are making it clear that we should not expend our limited resources on deporting those who have been here for years, have committed no serious crimes, and have, in effect, become integrated members of our society,” Johnson said in a recent speech in Houston. He added, “These people are here, they live among us, and they are not going away.”
In other words, even if we had the resources, we wouldn’t deport them. This is a very, very different argument than the government has made in the past.
Since the new policies took effect in January, Johnson’s instructions have been conveyed to agents throughout the department. “We decided we’re going to draw a clear line between individuals who now have significant equities in the country versus those who are recent entrants,” said one department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.
“If people are not an enforcement priority,” the official said, “. . . bottom line, the secretary has said don’t go after them.”
An unnamed administration official has said, very clearly, that DHS will not pursue certain aliens. This is an even more unequivocal abdication than DAPA, which clung to the pretense that DAPA status could be revoke–even though there was a roughly 99% renewal rate.
As a result, deportations are plummeting:
Deportations, for example, are dropping. The Obama administration is on pace to remove 229,000 people from the country this year, a 27 percent fall from last year and nearly 50 percent less than the all-time high in 2012.
Fewer people are also in the pipeline for deportation. The number of occupied beds at immigration detention facilities, which house people arrested for immigration violations, has dropped nearly 20 percent this year.
And on Johnson’s orders, officials are reviewing the entire immigrant detainee population — and each of the 400,000 cases in the nation’s clogged immigration courts — to weed out those who don’t meet the new priorities. About 3,000 people have been released from custody or had their immigration cases dropped, DHS officials said.
There is little pretense for executive discretion anymore when a class of 11 million is systematically exempted from the immigration laws.