Immigration Enforcement under Trump: A Loose Cannon

Report Author: 
Shoba Siviprasad Wadhia
Original Date of Publication: 
February, 2018

Despite multiple stays of removal after an order for removal from the United States in 2006, Ravi Ragbir, an immigrant activist, was taken into custody during a routine meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in January 2018.  His case is symptomatic of a larger problem caused by Trump administration immigration policies. This report addresses the Trump administration's change in longstanding policies governing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in relation to people who have received an order of removal. Owing to limited enforcement resources and the fact that personal circumstances can make deportation an inhumane option, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has historically exercised the discretion afforded to it by the Immigration and Nationality Act. Discretion may be exercised at any point during the removal process through simply not enforcing the law, deferring action, or issuing stays of removal and orders of supervision. However, guidance issued by the Trump administration has directed DHS officials to prioritize enforcement efforts against people with removal orders without any mention of when discretion can be exercised and without providing any guidance as to the special circumstances that might be considered in granting discretion. The author argues that the consequence of this change has been devastating to individuals and families who were previously protected from removal. Many immigrants living under some form of discretionary protection own homes and have built families in the U.S.; their lives may be upended should the discretionary protection suddenly end. The author concludes by arguing that targeting everyone with a removal order for deportation is unsuitable both as a matter of law and as a question of conscience. (Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia for Tulane University, PHIL 3930)

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Wadhia, S. S. (2018, February 21). Immigration Enforcement Under Trump: A Loose Cannon [Blog]. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from

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