Federal immigration officials now say illegal immigrants who are arrested on minor traffic violations and have no criminal history will no longer automatically face detention.
Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that immigration agents would only consider detaining people if they were convicted of traffic offenses.
The policy change is part of the Department of Homeland Security's response to a report by a task force on a federal fingerprinting program. The report—issued in September 2011—said that deportations for minor offenses were inconsistent with the department's priorities. The report concluded that deportations for minor offenses, such as speeding or driving without a license, carried out under the Secure Communities program were undermining trust between immigrant communities and the local authorities.
The immigration changes came just a few days after the Supreme Court heard the Obama administration's arguments against the controversial Arizona immigration law, which would compel law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of those suspected of being illegal immigrants.
The New York Times reported that administration officials point to Secure Communities as an example of enforcement at the federal level, which makes state level policing of immigration counterproductive.
Appearing before the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argued that Arizona setting up its own state policy was "attrition by enforcement," which would lead to illegal immigrants leaving the state for neighboring states. Critics of the law have argued that it encourages racial profiling.