On January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order regarding undocumented immigrants that directs ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the Department of Homeland Security to vigorously enforce existing laws that allow the government to deport undocumented immigrants and widened the categories of immigrants prioritized for prosecution.
On February 13, 2017, The New York Times reported that over 600 undocumented immigrants had been arrested the week before. All undocumented immigrants need to be aware that this government policy change has quickly changed the way these laws are enforced.
This is not a change in the law, just a change in the way that the enforcement agencies are enforcing the existing laws. Because the law didn’t change, no congressional approval was required. It’s just new orders to ICE, which put undocumented persons at the top of the list, and gave those agents the authority to use their “personal judgment” to determine if criminal conduct has occurred or there is a risk to public safety or national security.
The problem is that the executive order doesn’t appear to distinguish between an offense charged, which is merely an accusation by the state, and a conviction, which requires a judicial officer to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or a knowing and willing plea of guilty to a criminal offense. Giving this kind of discretion and authority to the enforcement agents is troubling for a lot of reasons – most don’t have significant legal training, there is no time limit, and no apparent distinction between minor and major charges.
How could the government practically enforce these policies? In addition to the very public “raids” reported in the media, agents could begin to review local criminal court dockets. If ICE is looking at traffic dockets for traffic charges of “no driver’s license on person” and a “foreign sounding name,” the problems for undocumented aliens will be substantial.
With this new policy enforcement, all undocumented immigrants could be facing deportation even if charged with a minor driving offense, or shoplifting charge, or even an old DUI charge.
If you or someone you know is undocumented, and facing a serious criminal charge or has an old criminal conviction, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney. You may be facing serious immigration issues in addition to your criminal charges. To discuss your options, you need to contact Attorney Joseph K. Scott, III, Attorney at Law at 225- 478-1178. Se habla Espaňol.
Thanks to Gage Skidmore for the Donald Trump photo.