U.S. Shifts Approach to Deporting Illegal Immigrants

Marcus Stern, USA Today, September 10, 2010

The Obama administration is changing the federal immigration enforcement strategy in ways that reduce the threat of deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, even as states such as Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Texas are pushing to accelerate deportations.

The changes focus enforcement on immigrants who have committed serious crimes, an effort to unclog immigration courts and detention centers. A record backlog of deportation cases has forced immigrants to wait an average 459 days for their hearings, according to an Aug. 12 report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which analyzes government data.

Among the recent changes:

* Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton ordered agency officials on Aug. 20 to begin dismissing deportation cases against people who haven’t committed serious crimes and have credible immigration applications pending.

* A proposed directive from Morton posted on ICE’s website for public comment last month would generally prohibit police from using misdemeanor traffic stops to send people to ICE. {snip}

{snip}

The administration’s new direction puts it at odds with those who believe the nation’s immigration laws should be strictly enforced and that all illegal immigrants should be deported.

ICE is “thumbing its nose at the law,” said Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the top Republican on the House immigration subcommittee.

The changes have also drawn complaints from immigration advocates. They say deportations under Obama are at record highs and immigrants who remain behind are living in limbo, without work permits, Social Security cards or driver’s licenses.

{snip}

The number of criminal immigrants removed by ICE “climbed to an all-time high,” the report [an August 12 TRAC report] said. In fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1, “The removal pace of criminal aliens . . . is fully 60% higher than in the last year of the Bush administration, and at least a third (37%) higher than in the first year of the Obama administration.”

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