The Obama Administration shifted Bush-era immigration enforcement policy from job site raids and sweeps to deporting undocumented immigrants. In 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported about 390,000 undocumented immigrants.

Spanish-language TV Univision news reported on Thursday that

the U.S. government has issued new rules aimed at halting the deportation of undocumented migrants who are in the process of legalizing their immigration status, if they have a family member who is a legal resident or a U.S. citizen, according to an ICE memo signed by director John Morton.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency memo, dated Aug. 20, specifies what officials should do when they detain suspected illegal migrants.

The measure could affect tens of thousands of people in the United States who have close relatives who are citizens or permanent residents and have filed paperwork to sponsor the stay of the migrants in the United States.

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and the former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship under President George W. Bush, told Univision, “ICE is trying to decrease delay in deportations but they will also allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and tens of thousands will benefit.”

This “means ICE is denying these deportation orders but that doesn’t mean they cannot be deported; their case can be reopened later,” Katherine Vargas of the National Immigration Forum told Univision.

Marc Jeffrey Moore, who took over in early August as field director for the ICE Miami Field Office, said, that the new memo “does not say we will not arrest individuals who do not have arrest records. It says we will focus our priorities to secure the safety of our communities. The criminals are first but we also have the obligation to guarantee effective enforcement of immigration law.”

Correction

A previous version of this story mistakenly curtailed the quote from Marc Jeffrey Moore, and altered the meaning of his words. We apologize for the error.

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