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Immigration: Obama eases student deportations with new policy applauded by Durbin, Gutierrez

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The Obama administration established a new policy on Thursday, virtually stopping deporting students who are in the U.S. illegally, taking steps even as Congress has resisted passing the DREAM Act, which would allow children of illegal immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S.

The announcement came from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and was applauded by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chief sponsor of the DREAM Act and Rep Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has been increasingly critical of President Obama's record of stepped up deportations.

The White House is acting as Hispanic groups have been stepping up complaints; in Chicago, a group of immigration rights demonstrators blocked an entrance to a highway on Wednesday to protest Obama White House policies and its "Secure Communities" program. My post on the Secure Communities program--and the growing protests over it--and the White House defense-- is HERE.

White House Intergovernmental Affairs Director Cecila Munoz said in a statement, that DHS "announced that they are strengthening their ability to target criminals even further by making sure they are not focusing our resources on deporting people who are low priorities for deportation. This includes individuals such as young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. It also includes individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel. It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes."

In a letter to Durbin and other Senators, Napolitano wrote, "we have initiated an interagency working group to execute a case-by-case review of all individuals currently in removal proceedings to ensure that they constitute our highest priorities.

"The working group will also initiate a case-by-case review to ensure that new cases placed in removal proceedings similarly meet such priorities. In addition, the working group will issue guidance on how to provide for appropriate discretionary consideration to be given to compelling cases involving a final order of removal. Finally, we
will work to ensure that the resources saved as a result of the efficiencies generated through this process are dedicated to further enhancing the identification and removal of aliens who pose a threat to public safety.
"
This case-by-case approach will enhance public safety. Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons," Napolitano wrote.

Durbin said in a statement, "If fully implemented, the new process should stop virtually all DREAM Act deportations.

"The Obama Administration has made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students," Durbin said. "These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and, maybe, Senators, who will make America stronger. We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember. The Administration's new process is a fair and just way to deal with an important group of immigrant students and I will closely monitor DHS to ensure it is fully implemented."

Gutierrez said in a statement, "I have been vocal in my criticism of the President and his Administration over the dramatic increase in deportations on his watch and have traveled the country urging him to use his power under existing law to do what he can to help. This is the Barack Obama I have been waiting for and that Latino and immigrant voters helped put in office to fight for sensible immigration policies. Focusing scarce resources on deporting serious criminals, gang bangers, and drug dealers and setting aside non-criminals with deep roots in the U.S. until Congress fixes our laws is the right thing to do and I am proud of the President and Secretary Napolitano for standing up for a more rational approach to enforcing our current immigration laws."

READ NAPOLITANO LETTER TO DURBIN OUTLINING NEW POLICY:
11-8949_Durbin_Dream_Act_response_08.18.11.pdf

READ JUNE LETTER FROM IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT DIRECTOR JOHN MORTON WITH PROPOSED NEW POLICY IMPLEMENTED THURSDAY HERE

READ MUNOZ LETTER HERE

below, from Durbin....


DURBIN LAUDS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCEMENT ON DREAM ACT DEPORTATION CASES
Durbin First Called for Deportation Moratorium for DREAM Students in April of 2010


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - Today, in a letter to Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 21 other Senators, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Administration has established a new process for handling the deportation cases of DREAM Act students and other sympathetic individuals. If fully implemented, the new process should stop virtually all DREAM Act deportations.

"The Obama Administration has made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students," Durbin said. "These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and, maybe, Senators, who will make America stronger. We need to be doing all we can to keep these talented, dedicated, American students here, not wasting increasingly precious resources sending them away to countries they barely remember. The Administration's new process is a fair and just way to deal with an important group of immigrant students and I will closely monitor DHS to ensure it is fully implemented."

On April 21, 2010, Senator Durbin and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) asked DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to suspend the deportations of DREAM Act students.

On April 13, 2011, Senator Durbin, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and 20 other Senators followed up, asking President Obama to suspend DREAM Act deportations.

In June, John Morton, the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), issued a memo ("the Morton Memo") advising ICE officials to consider certain factors when deciding whether to proceed with a deportation. One of these factors is whether an individual has been in the United States since childhood, like those who are eligible for the DREAM Act. During a Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing on the DREAM Act, Senator Durbin asked Secretary Napolitano what is being done to implement the Morton Memo and ensure Dream Act students are not deported. Secretary Napolitano responded, "One of the things we're working on now, is to design a process that would allow us as early as possible, to identify people who are caught up in the removal system, who in the end really don't fit our priorities."

There is a long history of the government exercising prosecutorial discretion in this manner. The government has always decided who to prosecute - and who not to prosecute - based on law enforcement priorities and available resources. The Supreme Court has held, "an agency's decision not to prosecute or enforce, whether through civil or criminal process, is a decision generally committed to an agency's absolute discretion."

How the New Process will Work:
Under the new process, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) working group will develop specific criteria to identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for prosecutorial discretion. These criteria will be based on "positive factors" from the Morton Memo, which include individuals present in the U.S. since childhood (like DREAM Act students), minors, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, victims of serious crimes, veterans and members of the armed services, and individuals with serious disabilities or health problems. The working group will develop a process for reviewing cases pending before immigration and federal courts that meet these specific criteria.

On a regular basis, ICE attorneys will individually review every case scheduled for a hearing within the next 1-2 months to identify those cases that meet these specific criteria. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the reviewing attorney must receive the approval of a supervisor to move forward. DHS will also begin reviewing all 300,000 pending cases to identify those that meet these specific criteria. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the reviewing attorney must receive the approval of a supervisor to move forward. Individuals whose cases are closed will be able to apply for certain immigration benefits, including work authorization. All applications for benefits will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

About the DREAM Act:
The DREAM Act would allow a select group of immigrant students with great potential to contribute more fully to America. These young people were brought to the U.S. as children and should not be punished for their parents' mistakes. The DREAM Act would give these students a chance to earn legal status if they:
Came to the U.S. as children (15 or under)
Are long-term U.S. residents (continuous physical presence for at least five years)
Have good moral character
Graduate from high school or obtain a GED
Complete two years of college or military service in good standing
More information about the DREAM Act can be found here.


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below, from Gutierrez.....

Gutierrez Calls DHS Deportation Announcement An Important Victory
For Sensible Immigration Policy


"I am proud of the President and Secretary Napolitano for standing up for a more rational approach to enforcing our current immigration laws," Congressman says

(Washington) - Today, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) issued a statement reacting to an announcement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would review deportation cases based on newly-issued guidelines establishing which cases are priories for deportation and which are not. The review of pending deportation cases and the instructions to all elements of DHS over how immigrants that meet certain criteria should be handled has come after months of sustained advocacy by Congressman Gutierrez, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, other Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, and determined public pressure by from clergy, advocates, immigrants, and DREAM Act students nationwide. The announcement by DHS will apparently make one of Congressman Gutierrez' key demands a reality: putting a halt to the deportation of young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and who are crime free and pursuing their education; in other words, those who would qualify for the DREAM Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in 2010 but died in the Senate when only 55 out of 100 Senators voted to move the bill forward.

The Congressman was briefed on today's DHS announcement by the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton by telephone yesterday evening. The following is a statement by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez:

I have been vocal in my criticism of the President and his Administration over the dramatic increase in deportations on his watch and have traveled the country urging him to use his power under existing law to do what he can to help. This is the Barack Obama I have been waiting for and that Latino and immigrant voters helped put in office to fight for sensible immigration policies. Focusing scarce resources on deporting serious criminals, gang bangers, and drug dealers and setting aside non-criminals with deep roots in the U.S. until Congress fixes our laws is the right thing to do and I am proud of the President and Secretary Napolitano for standing up for a more rational approach to enforcing our current immigration laws.

Today is a victory not just for immigrants but for the American people as a whole because it makes no sense to deport DREAM Act students and others who can make great contributions to America and pose no threat. It is not in our national interest to send away young people who were raised in the U.S. and have been educated here and want only to contribute to this country's success.

I have asked ICE Director John Morton to come to Capitol Hill and brief Members of Congress on how this will affect their constituents as soon as Congress reconvenes. My Chicago office and Congressional offices across the country have been inundated with cases of DREAM Act students, military families, and U.S. citizens whose families are being threatened with deportation or who have actually been deported. Putting the new priorities into practice so that cases can be reviewed and getting the word out to caseworkers in Congressional offices, in the legal community, and to individual immigrants facing deportation is critical and time-sensitive and we will work with ICE and DHS on that immediately.

This action does not address all of my concerns, but it is the start of a process that will save many American families and individuals who deserve to live long and productive lives in this country. There are still U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents in families with undocumented immigrants who can obtain legal status under existing law, but who do not do so because of an unfair three- and ten-year penalty barring them from the U.S. if they apply. The rapidly expanding "Secure Communities" state and local enforcement program that undermines public safety and has caught tens of thousands of non-criminals in its dragnet remains a big problem. But today's announcement shows that this President is willing to put muscle behind his words and to use his power to intervene when the lives of good people are being ruined by bad laws.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 18, 2011 2:41 PM.

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