Exploring the Implementation and Early Impacts of the Department of Homeland Security’s Priority Enforcement Program

Awarded Scholars:
Randy Capps, Migration Policy Institute
Project Date:
Jul 2016
Award Amount:

While the Obama administration’s executive actions on the deferred action programs have received much attention, other policy changes that have not faced legal challenges may have substantial effects on unauthorized immigrants. The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), announced in 2014, replaces the Secure Communities Program of 2008, an information-sharing program that used fingerprint data to check on the immigration status of the detained, and which contributed to the deportation of many non-criminals and minor offenders. PEP was designed to limit the use of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention to the unauthorized who have been convicted of a serious crime or represent a public safety risk. In theory, PEP offers some protection from deportation to most unauthorized immigrants. But the actual result depends on how the new policy guideline is interpreted and implemented at the state and local levels.

Randy Capps and colleagues at the Migration Policy Institute will investigate whether and how PEP affects the deportation process for all actors, from enforcement agents to immigrants and their communities. The mixed-methods study will include quantitative analysis of ICE administrative data on apprehensions and removals, and qualitative interviews with informants in several locations.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.