The Obama administration is directing federal immigration officials to use “prosecutorial discretion”in deciding which illegal aliens to detain and deport.
The intention is to kick out the worst offenders and release the all the others – specifically victims of domestic violence and other crimes;witnesses to crimes;or people who are charged with minor traffic violations.
The apparent goal is to make the Secure Communities program more palatable to the states and activists who have criticized it.
But the changes to the Secure Communities program,announced last week,did not mollify critics who are calling for a moratorium. One group called the changes inadequate – amounting to “little more than lipstick on a pig.”
Secure Communities is a voluntary,three-year-old partnership between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and state and local law enforcement to identify and deport “criminal aliens.” Under Secure Communities,the fingerprints of every single individual arrested and booked into custody,including U.S. citizens,are checked against immigration records.
Immigration advocates say too many law-abiding undocumented immigrants are being deported under the program. They also say it encourages racial profiling and undermines public safety.
In a June 17 memo,ICE Director John Morton clarified that “it is against ICE policy to initiate removal proceedings against people who are victims or witnesses to a crime.”
The same goes for people who are pursuing “legitimate” civil rights complaints and those who are involved in union organizing or who have legitimately complained to authorities about employment discrimination or housing conditions.
Morton said federal officials must “exercise all appropriate discretion on a case-by-case basis” when deciding how to handle such cases to avoid discouraging individuals from reporting crimes or standing up for their civil rights.
Unless the illegal alien poses national security concerns,has a “serious criminal history,” poses a threat to public safety,is a human rights violator or is involved in “significant” immigration fraud,“exercising favorable discretion,such as release from detention and deferral or a stay of removal generally will be appropriate,” Morton said.