Monday, August 23, 2010

ICE Announces Civil Enforcement Priorities

In a memo released June 30, 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (better known as ICE) formally announced its priority system for enforcing civil immigration laws.

The memo, penned by ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton, notes that ICE only has sufficient resources to remove about 400,000 aliens (less than 4% of the estimated illegal alien population) per year.  As a result, ICE now has a priority system for allocating its resources.

According to the memo, the following three categories represent ICE's civil enforcement priorities, with (1) being the top priority and (2) & (3) constituting equal but lesser priorities:

(1) Aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety;
  • This category includes:
    • Aliens engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage, or who otherwise pose a danger to national security;
    • Aliens convicted of crimes, with a particular emphasis on violent criminals, felons, and repeat offenders;
      • Where aliens convicted of crimes are concerned, the memo instructs ICE personnel to refer to the new Secure Communities Program offense levels, with Level 1 & 2 offenders receiving principal attention.
      • The Levels are as follows:
        • Level I : aliens convicted of"aggravated felonies," as defined in § 101(a)(43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, or two or more crimes each punishable by more than one year, commonly referred to as "felonies";
        • Level 2: aliens convicted of any felony or three or more crimes each punishable by less than one year, commonly referred to as "misdemeanors"; and
        • Level 3: aliens convicted of crimes punishable by less than one year.
    • Aliens not younger than 16 years of age who participate in organized criminal gangs;
    • Aliens subject to outstanding criminal warrants; and
    • Aliens who otherwise pose a serious risk to public safety.
(2) Recent illegal entrants; and
(3) Aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration controls.

The priority system set out in the memo suggests that the number of removal actions against "criminal aliens" may soon be on the rise.  Additionally, the new policy makes it all the more important that attorneys understand the immigration consequences of criminal convictions for their clients.

Click here to read the memo in full.

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