Action Must Follow Guidance on Deportation Policy

November 17, 2011

ICE Clarification on Deportation Policy Follows Reports of Uneven Application of Prosecutorial Discretion in Field Offices Across the Country

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today released guidance to help field officers determine how to pursue pending deportation cases. The department also announced a review of the nearly 300,000 open deportation cases before the nation’s immigration courts in order to ensure the Obama administration’s immigration priorities are uniformly enforced. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center:

“After months of uncertainty, the Obama administration has finally clarified the types of immigration cases its officials should deem a ‘high priority’ for deportation. This guidance, which must be implemented in conjunction with all other guidance memos released this year, has the potential to prevent the unjust deportation of many undocumented immigrants within our communities. For DREAMers, the undocumented youth who came here as children but have no pathway to citizenship, this news comes as a welcome relief. Unfortunately, the guidelines deem new categories of immigrants a ‘high priority’ for deportation and will prevent them from having their deportation cases closed administratively.

“Only time will tell whether the guidance issued today will actually change the way field offices currently operate. Sadly, recent experience indicates that directives from headquarters to use discretion often fall upon deaf ears in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and other field office sites. In Los Angeles, for example, we have seen people who clearly fall within the definition of ‘low level priority,’ including undocumented immigrant mothers whose only ‘crime’ is to operate as a vendor without a proper license, who are in danger of being whisked away from their U.S. citizen children and deported.

“ICE must dedicate the resources necessary to ensure that officers and agents are held accountable and that the guidance is broadly applied in all its field offices. If not, members of immigrant communities across the country will continue to rightly hold President Obama responsible for the pain so many families are experiencing as a result of the administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement policies.”

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