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ICE Ramps Up Its Efforts

National security adviser Michael T. Flynn resigned on Monday due to the revelation that he had misled top White House officials and Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States. On the same day, John F. Kelly, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), issued a self-congratulatory statement praising the success of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers that conducted a series of “targeted enforcement operations across the country.”

According to a press release with a statement Kelly, ICE launched a series of “targeted enforcement operations” across the United States—specifically mentioning Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City—resulting in more than 680 arrests. It asserts that the people involved posed a threat to public safety, border security or immigration. The statement also notes that 75 percent of those arrested were convicted criminals guilty of such grave offenses as homicide, sexual assault and drug trafficking.

“I commend the heroic efforts of the dedicated officers of ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations and those who provided assistance from ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as cooperating state and local law enforcement agencies,” read the statement.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) confirms that ICE has started targeted enforcement actions, reinstituting “Operation Cross Check,” which focuses on fugitives, individuals who reentered the U.S. after deportation and foreign nationals with criminal convictions. What causes great concern is that other individuals who do not fall within those descriptions may also be picked up in such enforcement actions. Those people may fall within broader enforcement priorities included in an Executive Order from President Trump, but as the terms of that order are vague, it may mean any undocumented person. Reports indicate that enforcement operations extend beyond the cities noted in the press release. 

Any aliens residing in the U.S.—undocumented and Lawful Permanent Residents as well as people with legal nonimmigrant visas—that have had contact with the criminal justice system should contact an attorney to discuss their legal rights. This includes people convicted of misdemeanors and non-violent offenses.

On a separate note, any alien who was unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days but less than one year and who left voluntarily before any proceedings were commenced against him or her is still subject to the three-year ban. They may be eligible for an immigrant visa waiver. Those who were in deportation proceedings and left voluntarily are subject to a 10-year ban. There are gray areas for which AILA is seeking clarification.