In line with what we heard at the National Immigration Law Conference Last week, John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the deportation program would continue to expand as planned in order to be operating nationwide by 2013, despite criticism from many police chiefs and from the governors of Illinois, New York and Massachusetts, who sought to withdraw their states.
In a fix likely to have broad practical effect, Mr. Morton issued a memorandum that greatly expanded the factors immigration authorities can take into account in deciding to defer or cancel deportations. Agents are now formally urged to consider how long an illegal immigrant has been in the United States, or whether the immigrant was brought here illegally as a child and is studying in high school or college.
Under Secure Communities, tens of thousands of immigrants who were here illegally but had not been convicted of any crime were detained by local law enforcement and swept into deportation proceedings. Until now, once immigration agents in the field had started a deportation, government lawyers had little authority to decide which cases were worth pursuing in immigration court. Many immigration violations are civil, not criminal, offenses.
In the Secure Communities program, fingerprints of everyone who is booked into jail are checked against F.B.I. criminal databases, as has long been routine, and also against Department of Homeland Security databases, which record immigration violations.