Policy change could benefit parents entangled in the immigration system

Over the course of several months, the Obama administration has been rolling out new policy changes with implications for the immigration system. While these changes are generally not actual modifications to the underlying law, they do affect how the law is enforced in real world situations.

In the most recent immigration policy change, immigration officials are being urged to be hesitant to deport parents of young children.

ICE officials are directed to consider parental relationship before taking action

For a number of months, immigration agents have been authorized to decline to pursue low-priority immigration offenders - those undocumented immigrants who have not committed a serious crime. The Obama administration has made it clear that the current priority in immigration enforcement is deporting those who are not only in the country illegally, but who are also engaged in other criminal activity.

Now, undocumented workers with children will be gaining another level of protection from deportation under a U.S. Immigration and Custody Enforcement policy directive issued on August 23.

The directive does not strictly prohibit an immigration agent from seeking deportation for a parent - but it does stress that parental status and any effect on a familial relationship should be taken into consideration. Non-citizen parents or legal guardians of citizen children are protected under the directive, but so are parents who are primary caregivers of minor children regardless of the child's citizenship. The directive says that ICE personnel "should ensure that the agency's immigration enforcement activities do not unnecessarily disrupt the parental rights of both alien parents or legal guardians of minor children."

Under the policy change, an ICE officer in each field office will be designated as the lead person for cases that involve immigrant parents of minor children. Going forward, details about immigration detainees' families should be included in ICE case files.

If you need help with an immigration problem, contact an attorney

The new immigration policy change could help protect parents from deportation, preventing families from being separated. Nonetheless, it is only one small step forward in an immigration system in desperate need of reform. Furthermore, as only a change in policy, the new immigration guidelines for parental relief lack the full force of law.

Even if you are a parent of minor children, you could still find yourself in trouble with immigration enforcement officers. If you are worried about how immigration enforcement could affect your family, are facing deportation, or would like to seek citizenship or lawful permanent residence in the United States, talk to an immigration attorney today. An immigration attorney will help you explore your legal options and do everything possible to keep you with your family in the United States.