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Will ‘Prosecutorial Discretion’ Change Deportation Trend?

Audio

Aired 8/23/11

Last week, the Obama Administration announced important changes to its current enforcement of immigration law. The changes will impact the lives of 300,000 people, many of them from the Southwest.

An undocumented immigrant from the city of Escondido, CA, shows the ticket he received for a driving infraction which led him into deportation proceedings. Under DHS' new "prosecutorial discretion" guidelines, his case for deportation would likely be overturned.
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Above: An undocumented immigrant from the city of Escondido, CA, shows the ticket he received for a driving infraction which led him into deportation proceedings. Under DHS' new "prosecutorial discretion" guidelines, his case for deportation would likely be overturned.

— The Department of Homeland Security has long said that its priority is to deport criminals and immigrants who pose a threat to national security. But enforcement of immigration laws has tightened beyond that guideline, with almost 80,000 non-criminal immigrants across the country deported since 2009.

New guidelines on "prosecutorial discretion" grant law-enforcement agents the ability to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether an undocumented immigrant ought to be deported.

"The Administration is talking about cases that are pending in every immigration court around the country, not just the border regions," said Melissa Crow, director of the Legal Action Center at the American Immigration Council, a Washington-based nonprofit advocacy group.

"They're talking about cases at various stages of proceedings, and also on appeal to the federal courts. And also all different kinds of cases, definitely not just DREAM Act-eligible students."

Among other effects, the new rules would mean undocumented students could be allowed to stay and even apply for work permits. Military families, victims of crime, gay couples and others who pose no threat to public safety are also included. DHS says the move will prevent low-priority cases from continuing to clog the court system.