The Obama administration has begun a profound shift in its enforcement of immigration laws, aiming to hasten the integration of long-term illegal immigrants into society rather than targeting them for deportation, according to documents and federal officials.
In recent months, the Homeland Security Department has taken steps to ensure that most of the 11.3 million illegal immigrants can stay in the U.S. Agents have narrowed enforcement efforts to three groups: convicted criminals, terrorism threats and recent border crossers.
While the public has focused on the court fight over President Barack Obama’s highly publicized executive action on immigration, Homeland Security has with little fanfare been training thousands of immigration agents to carry out new policies on everyday enforcement.
The legal battle centers on the constitutionality of a program that would officially shield up to 5 million eligible illegal immigrants from deportation, mainly parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. A federal judge put the program, known as DAPA, on hold in February after 26 states sued.
But the shift in enforcement priorities, which are separate from the DAPA program and have not been challenged in court, could prove even more far-reaching.