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The New Deportation Policy – It’s time to consult Immigration Lawyers; By Danielle Beach-Oswald

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We are finally getting some much needed clarity as to President Obama's August 19, 2011 announcement that the Department of Homeland Security would focus its deportation efforts on "low priority cases."


According to Senator Dick Durban, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now be working together to develop which criteria most embodies low-priority deportation cases.  Positive factors that DOJ and DHS are likely to pinpoint as low priority include minors, the elderly, pregnant individuals, and people that have been in the U.S. since childhood.  The inclusion of the DOJ on this issue is to be commended.  As the adjudicator of immigration claims, the DOJ must play an active role in defining low-priority removal cases as previous attempts from ICE and DHS to define prosecutorial discretion have failed. 


More clarity as to President Obama's August 19th announcement is still needed.  Although various groups have said that an individual should not attempt to be placed in removal proceedings in order to benefit from Obama's announcement, those that are not in removal proceedings are unsure as to how to benefit from the President's new policy.  There also comes confusion as to how individuals that have been identified as low-priority will be eligible for work permits.  The New York Times noted on August 22 that employment authorizations will be possible for those identified as low-priority but only after a separate process.  The separate process has yet to be identified.


There is one group that is being ignored as the DOJ and DHS try to implement Obama's new policy - private immigration practitioners.  Although the DOJ may try to provide an independent voice in this issue, those that deal with undocumented individuals should be at the round table to provide better information to government officials about the need for clarity in their policies.  This isn't the first time that the government has failed to seek the opinions of immigration lawyers as they frame new immigration laws.  Members of the Senate and House have repeatedly failed to consult with immigration practitioners on key issues of legislation such as the DREAM Act.  It's time for the government to learn their lesson and realize that immigration lawyers should be consulted for their years of experience on such complicated issues. 

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