ICE Reformed: Election of Donald Trump Likely to Affect Federal Immigration Enforcement Priorities


By: E. Charles Reed, Jr.

Between 2008-2014, the federal government utilized a program called “Secure Communities” to arrange for the transfer of suspected aliens from local law enforcement custody to federal custody upon receipt of a detainer request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). In early 2014, courts began holding local law enforcement agencies liable for claims brought by individuals alleging that the Secure Communities program lacked certain due process or other constitutional requirements. More detail on this history and the claims presented can be found here. When local law enforcement agencies asked for direction from the federal government on whether it viewed ICE detainer requests as permissive or mandatory, the federal government remained silent. Local law enforcement agencies across the United States then began either refusing to honor ICE detainers or placing limitations on when they would comply with the request. In November 2014, President Barack Obama announced by executive order that the Department of Homeland Security would discontinue the “Secure Communities” program and, in July 2015, DHS replaced “Secure Communities” with the “Priority Enforcement Program.” Under this program, the Department of Homeland Security has shifted its focus from deporting any and all suspected aliens, including those charged, but not yet convicted of criminal offenses, to focus only on removing convicted criminals, including gang members and others who pose a known danger to public safety.

With the issue of illegal immigration being central to the campaign of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, many have questioned how immigration enforcement will proceed once Mr. Trump is sworn in as President of the United States. While no one can predict for certain how aggressive President-elect Trump will be on this issue after January 2017, one Forbes author has analyzed Mr. Trump’s campaign promises and presented one scenario concerning the effect of a Trump presidency on illegal immigration and immigration as a whole. The author opines, in part, that the current DHS policy of prioritizing violent criminals for deportation could be revised to include any and all unlawful immigrants. The entire article can be found here. Since the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities can and have been changed by executive order, once Mr. Trump is sworn in as President of the United States, any change to the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities could happen quickly. We will continue to monitor this issue and provide updates as more information becomes available.

For any questions you may have, please contact E. Charles Reed, Jr. at [email protected].