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ICE agents will consider military service before pursuing deportation of some immigrants

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it will avoid deporting immigrants who are active-duty military or veterans under a directive released by the agency last week. 

The new  directive comes from a memo sent to personnel within the agency in May. It says the agents will consider past or current military service when assessing whether to pursue deportation proceedings for an immigrant or a member or their family. 

Under a law passed in the '90s, legal permanent residents, including those who served in the U.S. military, can be deported if they are convicted of a host of different crimes, even some nonviolent offenses. 

The agency does not keep track of how many service members have been deported over the years, but tens of thousands are thought to have been affected. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security launched a  program that gave veterans already deported access to legal aid and resources to potentially return to the U.S. 

Under the directive announced this week, ICE agents can still pursue deportation for service members but are instructed to seek approval from agency leaders first.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.