The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will revise the nation’s deportation policy. Many of the nearly 300,000 illegal immigrants now facing deportation will be allowed to stay and will be given the opportunity to apply for work visas. The administration will also focus on weeding out and deporting those undocumented immigrants who are convicted criminals or who may pose a threat to the public. The determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Focus on high-priority cases
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano explained the new policy in a letter:
“From a law enforcement and public safety perspective, DHS enforcement resources must continue to be focused on our highest priorities. Doing otherwise hinders our public safety mission, clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from the individuals who pose a threat to public safety.”
The agency says it will begin by closing those cases considered to be of low-priority. Those immigrants will be allowed to apply for work visas.
The agency will then focus on what it considers more serious cases. Immigration Enforcement Agents will also receive additional training to be better able to detect those who might be criminals or risks to to the public.
Administration harshly criticized
During the last week, President Obama has drawn criticism from many immigration groups across the country. The president’s critics say that he claims to support immigration reform while continuing to deport undocumented immigrants at record rates.
Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, said:
“In order to fulfill its promises, the administration must end policies like Secure Communities that result in the criminalization of innocent immigrants who are Americans in Waiting like those who came before them. The administration has pursued policies that are sowing fear and devastation among immigrant communities.”
Secure Communities is a deportation program that relies on partnerships with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to identify and prioritize undocumented criminals. The program has faced sharp criticism for allegedly misrepresenting the criminality of some detainees.
Defense of record
The administration at first defended its record. Cecilia Munoz, White House director of Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote Tuesday that more than half of all those deported had criminal records. Of those who did not, she said, most were caught at the border or had previously been deported. She went on to say that these statistics proved that the DHS strategy was effective.
Some have speculated that the DHS’ timing on this new policy may be in response to the recent criticism.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D), one of the key supporters of the DREAM act — an unpassed bill that would allow some illegal immigrants to gain legal status in exchange for education or serving in the military — praised the move.
“The Obama Administration has made the right decision in changing the way they handle deportations of DREAM Act students. These students are the future doctors, lawyers, teachers and, maybe, senators, who will make America stronger.”
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/18/officials-change-deportation-policy_n_930688.html#s332934&title=DREAM_Act_Students
Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-us-deportationreview,0,6450458.story
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/us/politics/17immig.html
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