On June 17, 2011, the United States Customs and Immigration Services issued the Morton Memo, instructing ICE agents to exercise prosecutorial discretion in deportation proceedings. On January 19, 2012, the results from two pilot programs of this policy in Baltimore and Denver were released. Of the 11,682 pending removal cases in these two cities, 16%, (or 1,667 cases) were administratively closed.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there were nearly 400,000 removals in 2011. Only about 2% (or 6,967), were deported for crimes such as homicide or sexual assault. There are currently 1.6 million deportation cases in the court system. With the limited resources the Department of Homeland Security has, the administration has applied this policy to focus on those who have committed crimes after crossing the border.
While NETWORK is looking forward to the nationwide implementation of this policy, we also have a number of concerns:
- While deportation cases have been closed for thousands of immigrants, they are still unable to receive work authorization. Many cases closed because of the individual’s ties to the community and their families, and it is unfair to let them reside here without the ability to support their families. The administration must take action so individuals can apply for Employment Authorization Documents.
- In some instances, those seeking further action for their cases at the Baltimore Immigration court are faced with a two-year delay. Further actions must be taken to make the process more efficient so that this delay is shortened. These delays are emotionally and financially damaging to immigrant families.
- Many are unaware of this new policy. The Department of Homeland Security must engage in a public information campaign so those people in deportation proceedings are aware of prosecutorial discretion and how it applies to them.
It is unfair and inhumane to let immigrants reside here without the ability to obtain work authorization while facing court delays that can last for years. With this new policy comes a new responsibility to ensure the dignity of individuals who have had their cases closed.