Central Texas - It would not come as a surprise to know central Texas has a large population of undocumented immigrants. But the way the government interacts with those immigrants may soon change.
President elect Donald Trump has been calling for a substantial change in policy compared to that currently followed by the Department of Homeland Security and, by extension, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which operates under DHS.
Last year ICE deported 78,114 individuals from south and central Texas according to data provided by the regional ICE office in San Antonio. That is nearly 17 percent of the 462,463 removed from the United States in 2015.
While a large percentage relative to the rest of the country, it is far from representing the total number of undocumented immigrants ICE came in contact with.
According to a Department of Homeland Security Memorandum sent out in November of 2014 by DHS Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson, ICE and the border patrol (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) were to follow certain guidelines when it came to removing undocumented immigrants.
Priority 1 immigrants and Priority 2 immigrants where those who had committed crimes ranging from felonies to multiple misdemeanors or those that "pose a danger to national security."
Priority 3 immigrants however, would not necessarily be removed from the country as the report gives immigration officials a choice on how to handle those cases.
The memorandum states:
Priority 3 aliens should generally be removed unless they qualify for asylum or another form of relief under our laws or, unless, in the judgment of an immigration officer, the alien is not a threat to the integrity of the immigration system or there are factors suggesting the alien should not be an enforcement priority.
In a 2015 ICE reporter on deportations, ICE reporters that almost 94 percent of deportations were Priority 1 or Priority 2. Just 4 percent were Priority 3 deportations.
Under a Trump administration however, "Priority 3" noncriminal aliens may not be identified as lower priority and would be subject to deportation.
Trump administration priorities, as detailed on his website, state:
- End catch and release. Under a Trump administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.
- All immigration laws will be enforced - we will triple the number of ICE agents.Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation.
In the last presidential debate, Trump stated "One of my first acts will to be get all of the drug lords, all of the the bad ones... we have to get them out, we have to secure the border, once the border is secured at a later date we will make a determination as to the rest."
Trump also does not support a pathway to citizenship or legal residence for undocumented immigrants.
Justin Estep, the Director of Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Central Texas, said that currently there are few options for undocumented individuals that don't end in deportation -- even if they have not committed any crimes.
"To qualify for deferred action you have to have come here as a child and be age thirty-five or younger. Outside of that you could try to get asylum or something to that affect," Estep said. "Hiring a lawyer isn't going to do much for you. We do consultations all the time were people all the time... and we just have to let them know 'unfortunately at this time there is no process for you.'"
Channel 6 News has requested information from ICE on the number undocumented immigrants that that they detain but do not deport in our area each year. They have not provided that information at this time.