WATCH: GPM on DHS’ Priority Program (PEP)

On October 29, 2015, The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) organized the 12th annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. The day-long conference explored many topics, including politics and immigration, the future of executive action, immigration detention and detention alternatives, and unaccompanied Central American children in the U.S.

Stay tuned for a complete overview of what the keynote speakers had to say in our next blog post, but in the meantime, please watch as George P. Mann addresses the panel on the future of executive action, which included the following speakers:

Assistant Secretary for State and Local Law Enforcement (DHS) Heather Fong; Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center Marielena Hancapié; Yale Law School Professor Cristina Rodríguez; and Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Dora B. Schriro.

The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) — an important part of the Obama Administration’s executive action from November 2014, which was launched as the successor to the controversial Secure Communities program — represents an approach to federal-local cooperation on immigration enforcement more tailored to the demands of individual local jurisdictions. The DHS representative on the panel, Heather Fong, explained the different priority groups (aggravated felons, adult gang members, people convicted of significant misdemeanors or threats to national security) and the flexibility of PEP in facilitating cooperation between local police enforcement and federal ICE agents. According to Fong, each jurisdiction can choose the extent of ICE involvement with local enforcement.

Mr. Mann explained that as an immigration attorney working directly with clients and undocumented people, he has observed that these new policies have a limited effect on what ICE agents do locally. Specifically, he said that ICE agents use the priority groups, created by PEP, as an excuse to not exercise humanitarian discretion. “Rogue agents do whatever they want, so long as they can justify it.” Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, Marielena Hancapié, agreed with Mr. Mann — you can hear her say “that’s right” in the middle of his statement. He concluded by saying to the panel of immigration policymakers, analysts, and experts: “The situation is dire. You have a lot of work to do.”

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