In 2009, while Reyes Jimenez was already in detention, the Obama administration announced it would address problems within the country's rapidly expanding immigration detention system. Since then, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been clear in its priorities: criminal aliens and those who pose a threat to national security should be detained and deported first.
In June of 2010, ICE released a memo that said immigration officers are encouraged to consider a person's "family relationships" in the country when deciding whether or not to prosecute a deportation case.
In a statement to ABC News, ICE spokesman Brian Hale said that, "as outlined in the agency's June 2010 Civil Enforcement Priorities memo, ICE will typically not detain individuals who are the primary caretakers of children, unless the individual is legally subjected to mandatory detention based on the severity of their criminal or immigration history."
The 2010 memo also said officers should consider whether the person has children who are U.S. citizens and "whether the person is the primary caretaker of a person with a mental or physical disability." Particular care should be taken in cases concerning "pregnant or nursing women."
This is the second story in a series from the Brian Ross Investigative Unit's 2011 Carnegie Fellows, five student journalists who initiated and led a reporting project on the impact of the federal government's enforcement of immigration law. Read the first story here. The journalists are Lauren Gilger, Charles Gorra, Josh Haskell, Robin Respaut, and Selly Thiam.