In a wonderful and surprising move, DHS Secretary said yesterday that DHS will halt deportation proceedings on a case-by-case basis against undocumented immigrants who are low enforcement priority for ICE and meet certain criteria such as attending school, having family in the military or are primarily responsible for other family members’ care.
The move comes after Hispanic and Democrat leaders pressured urged President Obama to help the immigration cause while Congress is gridlocked.
DHS will review all ongoing cases and see who meets the new criteria on a case-by-case basis.
The new rules only apply to those in deportation proceedings without final orders. It does not apply for people that are in the country illegally who are not in proceedings.
DHS will have to develop guidance on how to provide for appropriate prosecutorial discretion because many ICE field offices do not do it often enough or for good enough causes. It is still unclear how many people will be affected by this move or what the exact factors will be.
ICE already issued a few prosecutorial discretion memos recently that are yet to be implemented across the board, so it is a wait and see attitude. The main beneficiaries of this new guidelines will probably be DREAM Act qualified students (people who were brought here as children and completed college).
The move will free up immigration courts to handle cases involving serious criminals.
Individuals whose deportation proceedings are closed are not going to receive a visa, green card or any new type of legal status. Some may be eligible for work authorization, however, but even being granted such documentation will not be the same as having a legal status in the US.
There are no applications to file with ICE at this early stage. However, cases that merit prosecutorial discretion may apply at any time.
ICE attorneys are being asked to immediately start reviewing cases with hearings set in the next one to two months. DHS will also shortly begin the process of reviewing the rest of the 300,000 cases currently in the immigration courts. No guidance has been provided, however, on how long it will take before cases begin to be closed and how long it will take to review the entire caseload.
This is a welcome move by the Obama administration because the majority of deported individuals these days are low priority non-criminals that were detained due to minor violations.