The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will start a review of all deportation cases before the immigration courts. The DHS has planned to nationwide training program for enforcement agents and prosecuting lawyers, aiming to speeding deportations of convicted criminals and halting those of many illegal immigrants with no criminal record.
Reportedly, there are about 300,000 cases and the main focus in on deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes or pose national security risks. DHS officials will start issuing guidelines to begin the training program and the first stages of the court caseload review. These are efforts to encourage immigration agents to use prosecutorial discretion when deciding whether to go for a deportation.
The Obama administration has removed nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants in the last three years. These numbers will not decrease and the focus is on deporting the worst offenders, including national security risks, criminal convicts and those who repeatedly violate US immigration laws. Being present in the US without legal status is a civil violation and not a crime.
As the first step, immigration agency lawyers will examine all new cases just arriving in immigration courts nationwide and close cases that are low-priority according to the Morton memorandum, before they move into the court system. Immigrants identified as high priority will have their cases put onto an expedited process for judges to order their deportations.
Secondly, the DHS and the Justice Department will start a six-week pilot project in the immigration courts in Baltimore and Denver, which will focus on cases of immigrants who have been arrested for deportation, but who are not being held in detention while their cases proceed. Immigrants who qualify for prosecutorial discretion will have their cases closed, but not dismissed. It simply means that agents can re-open the deportations at any time if the immigrants commit a crime or a new immigration violation.
Immigrants whose cases are closed will be allowed to remain in the US , but they will be in midway state, without any positive immigration status. The pilot project is stated to end on Jan. 13, and then officials will decide how to further expand the program to all immigration courts across the country early next year.
The approach of deporting some illegals but not others would need a drastic change in the mentality of the agents, who have been used to operate on the principle that any violation was good cause for deportation. It is planned to proceed case by case using existing legal authorities, and there is no plan to exempt any large group of illegal immigrants from deportation.