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Immigration reviews under fire from groups seeking immigration reform

The federal government recently announced that the review process in the roughly 300,000 backlogged deportation cases has resulted in fewer than 2 percent of deportation cases being closed under the review for whether or not the cases are appropriate for prosecutorial discretion. The government asserts that thousands more cases will be closed under the review process.

Immigration advocates are criticizing the deportation reviews, calling the whole process a failure. Advocates decried the process earlier this week, saying that the paltry results in deportation reviews shows that immigration officials are not willing to exercise prosecutorial discretion.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the backlogged cases should be reviewed for potential exercise of prosecutorial discretion last year. The reviews began in November.

As of May 29, 2012, an ongoing government inquiry says that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had reviewed more than 230,000 deportation cases involving non-detained immigrants. The agency says that about 9 percent may be appropriate for prosecutorial discretion, although less than 2 percent of the cases have resulted in administrative closure.

The federal government says that more than 56,000 cases involving ICE detainees have been reviewed with roughly 40 total cases, or less than 1 percent, qualifying for potential application of prosecutorial discretion.

In all, nearly 4,000 immigrants have declined offers of prosecutorial discretion under the deportation review process.

Several advocacy groups seeking immigration reform held a conference call Monday. The executive director of one of the groups says that the new policy of prosecutorial discretion is failing, and in some cases is just making matters worse.

ICE director John Morton recently said on National Public Radio that current removal cases are targeted at serious criminal offenders. The ICE director said that roughly 216,000 serious criminal offenders were removed last year.

But critics of current immigration policy in the United States say that increased immigration enforcement is sweeping in too many immigrants who are supposed to be protected under federal immigration enforcement policy. The critics say that immigration officials are not applying policy effectively, and are declining to offer available options under the policy, even when an immigrant clearly qualifies under the standards.

Some immigrants receiving offers under the prosecutorial discretion policy are reportedly not being offered anything more than administrative closure of the removal proceeding. Critics of how immigration officials are applying the program say that immigration officials should be offering to settle a removal case. They say immigrants should be offered true relief including the ability to obtain work and adjustment of status.

Immigration reform advocates say that the new immigration policy is not likely to result in clearing any more than 5 percent of the backlogged cases in immigration court.

Source: NPR, "Obama's Deportation Policies Have Failed, Immigrant Advocates Say," June 11, 2012

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