For anyone familiar with the Secure Communities Program (SCP), the deportation program that focused on immigrants with criminal backgrounds, the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) may not be a foreign term. In collaboration with Homeland Security and other law enforcement departments PEP mission is to keep the American public safe from high profile criminals and repeat offenders.
Having replaced the SCP, the Priority Enforcement Program has kept many of the same aspects while giving itself an overhaul in effectiveness and efficiency. As part of the Department of Homeland Security, PEP works with law enforcement at both the local and state level to identify undocumented immigrants that pose a criminal threat to the population, and then places them in custody to await deportation.
After an arrest, an undocumented individual will be made to submit fingerprints to the FBI database as well as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department. The individual's record will be checked against those databases to help identify individuals that are deemed a priority for removal. Such offenses that are cause for priority status are gang related activities and activities that pose a threat to national security.
While the basic criteria needed for PEP to detain and deport individuals is based on criminal behavior, undocumented immigrants that have not been arrested are not at risk of deportation by the PEP program. If you are facing criminal charges and are wondering how it may impact your stay in the U.S. speaking to an immigration law attorney may help. As an advocate, an attorney may be able to protect your rights and you from detainment and deportation.