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New ICE guidelines good news for undocumented immigrants

Late last week, the director of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a memo that tells field directors, agents and attorneys working for the organization to consider a non-exhaustive list of 19 circumstances and use prosecutorial discretion before making arrests or going forward with deportation cases.

The new guidelines could spare many undocumented immigrants from being deported. Included amongst the situations to be considered is whether the immigrant has a United States citizen as a spouse or immediate family member, the contribution that the immigrant has made to his or her community and, of course, criminal history, or lack thereof.

"This is an example of smart enforcement of the immigration laws," the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said. "It really encourages ICE agents to use their limited resources to pursue dangerous people who would do us harm, rather than harmless, innocent people, rather than people who are just going about their business."

In particular, the new guidelines ask ICE officials to give extra consideration to witnesses and victims of crimes, military veterans, college students brought to the United States as children and spouses and relatives of United States citizens or green card holders.

On the other hand, the memo asked ICE officials to apply the new guidelines with caution to undocumented immigrants who are a "clear risk" to national security, including "serious felons, repeat offenders, or individuals with a lengthy criminal record of any kind."

If ICE officials use the prosecutorial discretion to not to go forward with deportation, it will not mean that the undocumented immigrant will be given legal status, and charges could be brought again against the person at a later date, immigration advocates warned. But what it does do is give undocumented immigrants the opportunity to stay in the country and become legal citizens, which is great news.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "New rules could spare some immigrants from deportation," Susan Carroll, 6/20/2011.

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