Hundreds released from immigration custody in Arizona

Latin Post — More than 200 people being detained in immigration custody in Arizona have been released during the last month in light of the new enforcement directives from President Obama handed to Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials confirmed this week.

With its close proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, Arizona has been at the center of the immigration controversy, also fueled by the crackdowns initiated by controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In 2013, 34,868 people were deported from Arizona by ICE officials, though that figure was about 12 percent lower from the year before.

However, much remains to be seen about the impact of President Obama’s executive action orders on immigration issued in November, which allows for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to apply for both work permits and a temporary stay on deportation under the new deferred action program.

Early estimates from the Migration Policy Center projected that roughly 136,000 people in Arizona could be eligible for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs. Of that figure, 39,000 may be immediately eligible for DACA while 97,000 parents may qualify for the new deferred action program for parents. Nationwide, the new executive actions could affect up to 5.2 million people.

Homeland Security has also changed its guidelines on deportation priorities, resulting in the release of more than 600 people nationwide at the end of December. Those who are released have been individuals who may be eligible for DAPA and DACA programs and people who do not fall underneath DHS’ outlined priorities for immigration enforcement.

Those priorities include criminal offenders and those who pose a risk to national security, as the ICE website outlines. Overall, ICE executed 315,943 removal operations across the nation in 2014, with 213,719 people apprehended by ICE while trying to illegally cross into the U.S. The agency reported that Border Patrol agents also made more than 486,000 apprehensions nationwide, many of them occurring near the Southwest border. Of those cases, more than 468,000 of those arrested were from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; the number of Mexican nationals apprehended by ICE officials were down overall, while cases involving Guatemalan, Honduran and El Salvadorians had risen, ICE reported in their year-end immigration findings.

The agency claimed that 98 percent of those cases who were removed and returned in 2014 met one or more of their immigration enforcement priorities.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, ICE is reviewing individual cases of those who are currently scheduled to be deported but are not being held in a detention center.