Immigration and border officers' duties will soon include determining whether people they apprehend might qualify for relief from deportation under President Barack Obama's executive action.
Instructions to Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement on how to do so are included in training materials, The Associated Press reported. The materials tell agents "to immediately begin identifying persons in their custody, as well as newly encountered persons" who may be eligible for protection from deportation." The documents include a checklist of questions that can be asked, according to the AP.
Obama's executive action expanded an existing program, known as DACA, that shields certain young immigrants here illegally from deportation. It also created a new program, dubbed DAPA, providing relief from deportation to parents of U.S. citizen and legal resident children. To qualify for DAPA, the parents have to have lived in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010, and must pass required background checks.
Border Patrol agents for many years have used a list questions to determine if people they apprehend at the border have a "credible fear" of persecution if they are sent back to their home country; this helps officers determine if they qualify for the asylum process.
People apprehended while illegally crossing the border or who have re-entered after being officially removed are considered a top priority for deportation, even under the president's executive action.
ICE deals more with people detained in the U.S. interior. During both of Obama's terms, ICE officers have followed priorities on who should be first, second, third etc. in line for deportation, guided by what are known as the Morton memos. Those memos were replaced by a Nov. 20 memo by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. The next step has been to update training material for officers in the field with the updated policies.
In his memo, Johnson said the revised guidelines applied to people encountered or apprehended on or after Jan. 5, as well as to immigrants detained, in removal proceedings or subject to removal orders. People already removed could not qualify and those with notices to appear for hearings still had to show up to those hearings, the memo stated.
There are an estimated 11 million people in the country illegally.
Calls and emails to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were not immediately returned.