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Immigration shifts policy in deportation cases

The Obama administration announced Thursday it will review roughly 300,000 pending deportation cases on a case-by-case basis and allow a number of immigrants to remain in the country. The change in policy will shift the focus of removal hearings heard in immigration courts to those cases that the Department of Homeland Security believes are of the highest priority.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says under the new case-by-case review policy, "Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons." A number of federal lawmakers had been urging Homeland Security to change its policies on deportation proceedings, especially those involving student who would have qualified for a green card under the failed DREAM Act.

Secretary Napolitano says "it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases, such as individuals... who were brought into this country as young children and know no other home." However, she also says the new policy change does not "alleviate the need for passage of the DREAM Act."

Much of the debate concerning the administration's deportation policy in recent months has focused on the Secure Communities program; stories this blog has written about. One senior official reportedly told reporters Thursday that roughly 79 percent of deportations involve undocumented immigrants with no criminal record.

The new process for deportation cases reportedly will involve the development of specific criteria for officials to identify low-priority cases that should be considered for prosecutorial discretion. Those are cases that immigration officials would not pursue in removal hearings in immigration courts.

Although officials have not released exact details of low-priority cases, among those likely to be considered for inclusion on the low-priority status are cases involving minors, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, victims of serious crimes, veterans and members of the armed services. Individuals with disabilities or serious health problems may also be included in the criteria for future low-priority status.

Source: CNN, "Administration says it will conduct case-by-case review on deportation," Jim Barnett, Aug. 18, 2011

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