Homeland Security To Review Deportation Dockets to Exercise Prosecutorial Discretion on Low-Priority Cases

On August 18th, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will work together with the Department of Justice to identify low-priority cases amongst the 300,000 backlog of cases for immigration removal. The move may be a response to political pressure, as immigrant advocates have been increasingly critical of the Obama Administration’s immigration removal policies, which have led to approximately 1 million deportations since he took office.

Writing on behalf of the President, DHS Secretary Napolitano informed Senator Dick Durbin that DHS and DOJ will specifically review current immigration dockets in reference to persons who would be eligible for DREAM Act benefits, if such Act passes. The Secretary’s letter included with it a background memo, which included the following statement:

“[T]he new interagency process is designed to ensure that resources are focused on the Administration’s highest enforcement priorities. As part of this process, an interagency team of DHS and Department of Justice (DOJ) officers and attorneys, including representatives from throughout DHS and from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and the Office of Immigration Litigation at DOJ, will identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for an exercise of discretion. This review will be conducted on a case-by-case basis and will consider cases that are at the various stages of enforcement proceedings, including charging, hearing, and after a final order of removal. The interagency working group will also issue guidance to prevent low priority cases from entering the system on a case-by-case basis. Resources that are saved as a result of this process will be used to accelerate the removal of high priority cases.”