[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] on Friday announced changes to immigration enforcement policies [press release] for state and local agencies. Created by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] agency, the changes affect agreements made between DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] and state and local law enforcement agencies, allowing those agencies to perform immigration enforcement tasks with criminal aliens. Such partnerships are allowed under § 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act [text]. The new polices create uniform standards for agencies that will require them to pursue all criminal charges leading to an immigrant's arrest and prioritizes cases of immigrants accused of major drug offenses or violent crimes. The changes address concerns that police may arrest immigrants for minor offenses "as a guise to initiate removal proceedings." Napolitano said that the new agreement "supports local efforts to protect public safety by giving law enforcement the tools to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens." ICE official John Morton [official profile] called the partnership program "essential," maintaining that it allows the ICE "to better utilize the resources and capabilities" of agencies across the nation. Government investigators found that old partnership agreements were unclear [AP report] and exemplified misguided Bush administration policy.
Friday's announcement is the latest in a series of Obama administration immigration reforms. Earlier this month, ICE issued inspection notices [JURIST report] to 652 businesses as part of an increased effort to target employers using illegal immigrants. Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] vacated [order, PDF; JURIST report] an order [text, PDF] by former attorney general Michael Mukasey [JURIST news archive] that denied potential deportees the right to challenge immigration decisions based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. In March, Napolitano and other officials proposed an overhaul [press release] of US immigration policy. In February, Napolitano called for a review [JURIST report] of workplace raids conducted by ICE agents. ICE has arrested [JURIST report] many non-criminal illegal immigrants in the past year, many of whom were imprisoned [JURIST report].