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A Nation Divided By Immigrants – DHS Announces Plan To Review 300,000 Cases in Removal Proceedings; By Danielle Beach-Oswald

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It is increasingly difficult to try to pinpoint where President Obama truly stands regarding immigration. Although his administration has been a harsh critic of state immigration laws with the Obama administration filing lawsuits against several states including Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia for their state immigration measures, statistics from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) note that the deportations during the Obama administration have seen a 10% to 25% increase from the later years of the Bush administration.


Although Obama believes that immigration should remain in the federal domain, earlier this month he showed his clear support for the mandatory use of the Secure Communities Program by preventing states from withdrawing from the program. Rather than trying to insure that immigration remains a federal issue, Secure Communities does exactly the opposite. By requiring local enforcement agencies to share the fingerprints of all detained individuals with ICE in order to verify their legal status in this country, Secure Communities gives too much power to local law enforcement authorities in immigration matters. ICE advertises on its website that Secure Communities is a "common sense way" for it to carry out its priorities, however several states including Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts disagreed and unsuccessfully attempted to "opt out"of the program. When started in 2008 it was clearly stated by the Obama administration that any state could opt out. Now the exact opposite has been stated and states are prevented from opting out of the program. By 2013, Secure Communities will exist in all law enforcement jurisdictions in the United States.


President Obama previously promised that the focus of his deportation efforts would be "the worst of the worst." However, Jorge Mario Cabara of the Huffington Post noted that over 25% of those deported under the Secure Communities Program had no criminal charges filed against them. The Secure Communities Program has led to over 77,000 deportations and estimates from the Associated Press noted that over 25% were from minor criminal convictions.


On August 19, the Obama administration has once again shown a change of face on the issue of immigration. After protests in several American cities and widespread criticism from immigration advocacy groups and Hispanic organizations regarding his Secure Communities policy, the Obama administration's August 19th announcement is yet another unclear change of policy. Many are wondering if the Obama's administration latest decision is a way to attract Hispanic voters as this election season gears up. His administration's decision to require the Secure Communities Program is also under new judicial scrutiny after the decision of Federal District Judge Scheindlin to release ICE documents which stated that ICE would have to re-write prior memos to comply with the administration's new mandatory adoption of Secure Communities.


With so many changes on immigration policy, it's hard to understand where President Obama truly lies. Although his August 19, 2011 decision is to be commended, one can't help wonder what direction this administration will take next and who would administer this change with so many branches of DHS and ICE.


So what exactly does this August 19 announcement mean for individuals in deportation/removal proceedings? The New York Times stated that this would help the youths of America by removing their possibility from deportation proceedings. Here are some of the possible effects according to Reform Immigration for America



  • The announcement is about deportation cases only. This announcement is DHS's attempt to "unclog" the deportation case log by removing "low-priority" cases in order to focus on individuals who pose serious dangers to our communities and our country.

  • "High-priority" individuals include, but are not limited to, those who pose a serious threat to national security, are serious felons and repeat offenders, are known gang members, or have a record of repeated immigration violations.

  • "Low-priority" individuals include, but are not limited to, veterans, long-time lawful residents, DREAMers and others brought to the US as children, pregnant women, victims of domestic abuse and other serious crimes, and spouses.

  • Individuals in deportation proceedings who are deemed "low-priority" will get a letter from DHS stating their case has been administratively "closed".

  • Those whose cases are closed can apply for a work permit program. Decisions about work permits will be made on a case-by-case basis. Undocumented immigrants not in deportation proceedings cannot seek work permits.

  • Individuals SHOULD NOT attempt to be placed in deportation proceedings in order to apply for a work permit.

  • While these changes do not directly benefit non-criminal, undocumented immigrants who are not in deportation proceedings, if implemented properly, these individuals will not be placed into deportation proceedings in the first place.

  • The announcement does not change programs such as 287g and Secure Communities.

  • This is not "back-door amnesty" as our opponents will claim. This is a procedural change in the implementation of DHS's enforcement policies to target only those who pose serious threats to the US and those with long criminal records.


However, the problem lies in implementation and discretionary review and it does not help all those who currently are here unable to work or to leave the country.


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Comments

  1. Bianca's Avatar
    , her situation does not look good. Yes, she may be held in dtetneion until she is deported/removed from USA to her home country. Bond can be posted IF allowed by the Immigration Judge.She should discuss her legal options with an immigration lawyer without delay and prior to the court hearing.
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