LAS VEGAS - Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) showed up at Astrid Silva's house and picked up her father to be deported back to Mexico.
He's been living in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant since 1992. He thought he entered the country with valid papers, but says it turned out he had been scammed.
"He had always been a very law-abiding person, so he tried to do everything the correct way," Silva said. "I think that moment was that moment when he said, ‘Oh no, I tried so hard, and here it is, it's finally caught up.' So, I think that moment was scary for the entire family."
By order of the Obama administration, 300,000 backlogged immigration cases are being reviewed by U.S. Homeland Security. The agency was directed in August to prioritize and swiftly deport illegal immigrants who are criminals or threats to security.
Immigration attorney Constantinos Gus Fountas says deporting illegal immigrants with or without criminal records is entirely up to ICE without accountability or avenues for people to appeal.
"It's discretion. So, they really can do whatever they want," he said. "People should be very cautious about this. People think there is some sort of new benefit, but there isn't."
Astrid says that's exactly what happened in her father's case. She says ICE agents used discretion to detain her father who has no criminal record. He was supposed to be deported Wednesday, but a last-minute change reversed that decision.
"It did work negatively and favorably as well, but hopefully, they are going to see that it needs to be fixed further, so that we do have law-abiding people here," she said.
ICE didn't comment on camera but did provide information about the program. ICE representatives say high priority cases include repeat violators of immigration law and those who recently entered the U.S. illegally.
According to Homeland Security, the Obama administration has deported more than a million people in the past two and a half years. The Bush administration, by comparison, deported one and a half million in eight years.