PRESIDENT TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDERS
On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed two executive orders (EOs) on immigration policy. These orders directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enlarge the deportation dragnet and further militarize the southern border of the U.S. The administration expanded the group of people who will be priorities for deportation, specifically noting “removable” immigrants who have been accused or convicted of committing criminal offenses. The EOs also reflected a focus on having local law enforcement agencies perform the functions of immigration officers through formal agreements and by denying federal funds to “sanctuary jurisdictions” that do not comply with requests to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detain and deport immigrants.
Do the EOs change who is legally subject to deportation “removable”?
No. The existing immigration laws dictate who is legally “removable.” Current law allows the federal government to deport people who lack lawful immigration status (i.e. undocumented people) as well as those with status (e.g. green card holders, refugees, visa holders) who have certain criminal convictions. The President cannot redefine who is legally “removable” without an act of Congress. However, for people who are “removable” under existing law, the policies announced can and do expand whom immigration authorities will target for deportation.
Do the EOs change whom ICE will seek to detain and deport?
Yes. Some individuals who would not have been ICE enforcement priorities before may now be high priorities for removal, even pre-conviction. Of note, any “removable” person who has been previously accused or convicted of a crime is now a priority for deportation.
Immigration authorities will prioritize deporting the following categories of “removable” people:
- Those with any criminal conviction(s);
- Those with previous criminal charges – even if such charges have not been resolved;
- Those believed by immigration officers to pose a threat to public safety or national security;
- Those who have a final order of removal; and
- Those who have engaged in fraud/misrepresentation in applications to government, or who have “abused” public benefits.
For those currently in the criminal legal system, it is important to note the EO makes no distinction between the types of crime or level of offenses that will make a person a target for deportation. Also, it is likely ICE will prioritize people with prior convictions regardless of how long ago the conviction occurred or the level of the prior conviction.
Should I bother hiring a good Criminal Defense Attorney?
Yes! The executive orders confirm that immigrants with convictions will be targeted as a top priority for deportation. It is crucial to not just negotiate dispositions, but fight them to dismissal in order to minimize immigration consequences and exposure to enforcement agents. This applies to immigrants with and without lawful status! Make sure to hire a Criminal Defense Attorney that understands that any conviction even one that includes a deferred sentencing, probation, and expungement can still make you a priority for deportation.
Am I safe if it is a Municipal case?
No! Dispositions considered to be minor or even “non-criminal” can make your client a priority or deportation. For example, DHS considers municipal violations to be misdemeanor convictions. It is important to hire a attorney who is well versed in criminal law and understands that the only way to keep you in the United States is to fight your case and have it dismissed.
What does this mean?
Whether you are documented, or are here without papers, it is important that you stay out of the legal system. Don’t drink and drive, stay away from illegal controlled drugs, walk away from fights, and don’t carry a gun. But, if you are arrested, your first call is to a highly qualified criminal defense attorney who is not afraid to fight your case, because the only chance you may have to stay in this country is to challenge the charges and get them dismissed.
Brian J. Boeheim, Esq. --- Boeheim | Freeman PLLP --- 918-884-7791