How have U.S. immigration policies changed under President Trump?

Former President Obama’s immigration policy publicly focused on deporting people with violent and/or serious convictions; though in fact, most people deported from 2014-2016 under Obama’s administration were convicted of nonviolent or immigration-related offenses.

President Trump has been even more outspoken about his plan to deport a wider range of individuals. This includes people arrested and charged with a crime but not actually convicted; suspected gang members; and people convicted of low-level misdemeanors.

On January 25, 2017, Trump released two Executive Orders (E.O.) describing his administration’s immigration policy and how it connects to people in the criminal justice system. One E.O. said that the federal government, through the Department of Homeland Security, will now be expanding deportation efforts to more heavily target the following groups: (1) any immigrants who have been convicted of any crime, (2) any immigrants who have been charged with any crime (but not yet convicted), and (3) any immigrants who have committed acts that are a chargeable criminal offense (which we take to mean that immigrants who are assumed to have committed a crime are at risk of deportation under Trump’s policy).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although current federal law already allows the government to deport immigrants based on certain criminal convictions, Trump’s Executive Order goes far beyond the current law to include people convicted of any crime and even people who are suspected of committing a crime. It is still unknown how the Executive Order will be carried out, when federal law does not yet permit deportation of all of the groups of people being targeted. While the Trump administration plans to expand the noncitizens they are targeting for deportation, it is crucial that you explore options to make your criminal record more “immigration-safe” meaning less likely to trigger negative immigration consequences. Contact one of the organizations listed at the end of this fact sheet for legal support.  


On February 21, 2017, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly, who works for President Trump, released two memos with the federal government’s plans to carry out the January 25th E.O.s – including plans to hire thousands more immigration enforcement agents; expand the group of immigrants who are being prioritized for removal (deportation); speed up deportation hearings; and work with local law enforcement to help them make immigration-related arrests. These memos are federal guidelines that give the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal agency the power to more aggressively arrest, detain and deport immigrants with criminal records and undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., or trying to enter at the borders.


Trump’s Executive Orders (EOs) and memos are very threatening to many people. If you are personally affected or know someone who might be, please take a look at the list of legal resources and organizations listed at the end of this fact sheet. These organizations are offering assistance to immigrants and fighting back during this time. They may also be able to advise you about how to make your record more “immigration-safe,”  meaning less likely to put you at risk of deportation.