The Obama Administration announced last year that immigration officials would begin focusing on deportation proceedings involving criminals, partially in effort to relieve the 300,000 case backlog from the immigration court system.
However, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials reportedly have closed only a fraction of the pending deportation cases, according to recent data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
The director of ICE ordered immigration officials to use "prosecutorial discretion" in determining whether to move forward with deportation cases. Courts were told to make decisions based on immigrants' criminal backgrounds, community involvement, family connections, education and lengths of residence.
TRAC reported that immigration courts have closed less than 2 percent of low-priority cases, or about 4,300 proceedings. More than 3,300 cases were dismissed for "long-term" U.S. residents. About 300 cases involved immigrant children. Over 90 cases were closed because immigrants had been victims of crime. A handful of cases were put aside for military service.
Critics say ICE officials often use superficial information to decide deportation cases when immigrants go to court without an attorney. Legal counselors are not provided for immigrants as they are for defendants in criminal courts. Some immigrants aren't even made aware that reviews can be requested.
TRAC noted that most of the cases ICE closed involved immigrants who hired lawyers to represent them.
For example, a 56-year-old undocumented immigrant was arrested this summer and placed in detention for working in the U.S. without authorization. The man has lived in the country for almost two decades and has no criminal history.
After one review, prosecutors refused to close the immigrant's deportation case. With the help of a lawyer, the grandfather of three will have a second review this month which may remove the immediate threat of deportation.
We are a full-service immigration law firm and assist people fighting deportation and removal. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our South Carolina immigration law web site.
Source: KQED, "Few Deportation Cases Dismissed, Despite Policy to Ease Courts' Backlog," Shoshana Walter, July 30, 2012