The Trump administration on Monday began a new effort to target for deportation immigrants caught cheating on welfare, lying about their identification, and accused of serious crimes.
The new policy is driven by public safety, L. Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, told a Georgetown University Law School immigration conference Monday morning.
“What is new is that we are expanding the categories of people who are going to be receiving [notices to appear at deportation hearings] to, most principally, people who applied for a benefit and have no underlying lawful status,” he said.
USCIS has had the authority to issue the so-called NTAs for 15 years, and issued 91,000 in 2016-2017, he said, though the reasons had been limited until the agency expanded them in July. NTAs begin the process of deportation.
“Starting today, Oct. 1, USCIS will begin implementing the updated NTA policy. Under the new guidance, USCIS officers will now issue an NTA for a wider range of cases where the individual is removable and there is evidence of fraud, criminal activity, or an applicant is denied an immigration benefit and is unlawfully present in the country,” said Cissna.
The new policy is based on an executive order signed by President Trump to emphasize national security in immigration policy.
The Census has reported that 51 percent of legal and illegal immigrants receive some social welfare help. There isn’t an estimate on the amount of fraud or cheating, however.
When he revealed the cases to be included in deportation cases, Cissna said, “For too long, USCIS officers uncovering instances of fraudulent or criminal activity have been limited in their ability to help ensure U.S. immigration laws are faithfully executed. This updated policy equips USCIS officers with clear guidance they need and deserve to support the enforcement priorities established by the president, keep our communities safe, and protect the integrity of our immigration system from those seeking to exploit it.”
His office released the following new justifications for issuing NTAs:
- Cases where fraud or misrepresentation is substantiated, and/or where an applicant abused any program related to the receipt of public benefits. USCIS will issue an NTA even if the case is denied for reasons other than fraud.
- Criminal cases where an applicant is convicted of or charged with a criminal offense, or has committed acts that are chargeable as a criminal offense, even if the criminal conduct was not the basis for the denial or the ground of removability. USCIS may refer cases involving serious criminal activity to ICE before adjudication of an immigration benefit request pending before USCIS without issuing an NTA.
- Cases in which USCIS denies a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, on good moral character grounds because of a criminal offense.
- Cases in which, upon the denial of an application or petition, an applicant is unlawfully present in the United States.