The policy of the Obama administration is to deport immigrants with criminal records. Other illegal immigrants may stay in the United States. However, agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have discretion to enforce the rules.
The emphasis on deporting criminals is new. The Secure Communities Act sends the fingerprints of immigrants booked by local police for review by the Department of Homeland Security. The purpose is to find illegal immigrants. Deportation may follow.
There is confusion about the law. When ICE began deporting people with roots in the United States and no criminal records, immigrant advocates protested.
It is not clear if the states must enforce the law. Several state governments opposed to the law say they will not.
Last June ICE tried to clear up misunderstandings with new guidelines. However, there is still confusion. At best, federal agents are applying the law in an uneven way. Some illegal immigrants with no criminal records have been deported.
Homeland security is reviewing the records of about 300,000 deportations in the immigration courts.
According to homeland security, the problem is that the retraining of ICE agents is not complete. According to the union representing ICE agents, the guidelines are too complex.