Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is reportedly considering limiting deportations of undocumented immigrants who don’t have serious criminal records, but some immigration advocates want the Obama administration to do more than that.
The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Johnson is considering whether to allow people who have little or no criminal record but have repeatedly violated immigration laws — such as re-entering the country illegally after having been deported or failing to comply with a deportation order — to stay in the United States.
This comes several weeks after President Barack Obama ordered Johnson to review deportation policies in order to find “more humanely” ways to carry out enforcement efforts.
Currently, immigrants who have re-entered the country illegally after having been deported previously are considered to be a priority for deportation. But John Sandweg, former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, doesn’t think those cases should be on the priority list.
According to the Associated Press, Sandweg and an immigration advocate are pushing the Obama administration to change the existing priority categories to focus only on recent border-crossers, immigrants who pose a threat to national security or public safety and those who have been convicted of serious crimes.
“The time had come to focus ICE’s efforts exclusively on public safety and national security,” Sandweg told the Associated Press in explaining why he supports the change.
Immigration advocates want bolder changes
Individuals who want tougher immigration laws oppose the change, saying they see the act of re-entering the country illegally as a serious crime. They also say it would undermine the nation’s immigration laws.
Meanwhile, advocates who want the Obama administration to curve the number of deportations say the change would not be enough. They want the administration to take bolder steps, such as expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to benefit more undocumented immigrants.
Other advocates want the Obama administration to do away with Secure Communities, a federal program that allows local police and immigration officials to share fingerprints data of individuals who are arrested or booked into custody in order to identify undocumented immigrants.
“Pretty much anything the administration does will constitute an improvement, but it won’t undermine, I think, the long-term consensus that the entire Secure Communities concept needs to be ended,” Chris Newman, legal programs director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told VOXXI.
Advocates say Secure Communities has led to civil rights violations of Latinos and immigrants. In October, California became the first state to sign a bill into law — dubbed the TRUST Act — that limits the state’s cooperation with Secure Communities. Other states, like Arizona, have introduced similar bills.
Newman added that he hopes the Obama administration will make changes to its enforcement policies so that they mirror provisions in the California TRUST Act.
“It is pretty clear right now that the administration’s policies are more closely aligned with Arizona’s SB 1070 than it is with the California TRUST Act,” he said. “We expect that that will be changed soon.”