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Federal court requests ICE clarification in deportation cases

A federal appeals court has requested that the Obama administration clarify its policy on prosecutorial discretion in several individual deportation proceedings. The appellate rulings did not arise in cases here in Florida, but the unusual orders have caught the eye of many people interested in immigration issues nationwide.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued five orders Monday giving the U.S. Attorney General until March 19 to let the federal court know whether or not the deportation cases are proper for prosecutorial discretion under the new immigration policies announced last year by the Obama administration.

Last year, immigration officials announced a new policy to review the large backlog in removal proceedings and halt deportations of immigrants who have no criminal backgrounds and who have strong ties to the country. The policy reportedly was made to give immigration officials more discretion in deportation and removal proceedings to reduce the backlog of roughly 300,000 deportation cases across the country.

The administration reportedly has been slow in rolling out its piecemeal review of the backlog in deportation cases in many areas of the country and in determining whether the government intends to pursue a deportation in individual cases. Five cases, involving seven different immigrants rose up through the federal immigration litigation process to the appellate court. The three judge panel on the West Coast was scheduled to review the five cases.

Two of the judges signed orders in each case requesting review from the Obama administration. One judge dissented from each order. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the agency is working with the Justice Department on a response to the five immigration orders.

Some people who watch immigration issues believe the federal appellate orders are an effort to prod the government into clarifying the issue of prosecutorial discretion and to review cases at all levels of the federal immigration litigation process. In late January, the Board of Immigration appeals reportedly ruled that immigration judges have inherent authority to place a removal proceeding on administrative hold.

Source: Thomson Reuters News and Insight, "Court prods government for immigration answers," Feb. 6, 2012

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