LOS ANGELES — Illegal immigrants who are arrested for minor crimes will no longer be targeted for deportation, the Obama administration announced in an apparent concession to the increasing number of jurisdictions pushing back against its Secure Communities program.
Advocates, police chiefs and sheriffs have complained that detention orders under the program were being issued indiscriminately, snaring people who were driving without a license or selling tamales on private property.
"In order to further enhance our ability to focus enforcement efforts on serious offenders, we are changing who ICE will issue detainers against," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton said in a statement on Friday.
Previously, federal agents were instructed to treat misdemeanor offenders as a low priority but were not prohibited from issuing detainer requests for them.
The detainers instruct local jailers to hold an arrestee for up to 48 hours longer than the person's criminal charge would have allowed, giving immigration more time to take them into custody.
Under the new policy, agents may issue detainers only for those convicted or charged with a felony; those with three or more misdemeanor convictions, excluding traffic offenses and minor crimes; and those whose misdemeanors are more serious.