The Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, issued a memo in June 2011 stating that the agency would focus its efforts on deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records rather than those with clean records. This “prosecutorial discretion” was supposed to reduce deportation rates by allowing ICE to look through its backlogged removal case docket and close cases for those people who have strong family ties to the United States, or came to this country as children, or served in the military, and do not pose a threat.
This has not happened. The grim reality we have today falls far short of the high expectations raised among undocumented immigrants by administration officials last year. In a review of more than 411,000 deportation cases, less than 2 percent of these cases have actually been closed. And in those few cases that have been closed, people were left hanging out to dry without legal immigration status or even work authorization. Bureaucratic delays have stalled background checks in thousands of cases though few people failed to pass these checks. It’s hard for people to realize the American dream when they are languishing in immigration limbo without the right to work and put food on the table.
The Obama administration pledged to restore balance to a broken immigration system, but we still have the same broken system. Many immigrants, especially those in the Latino community, received this new prosecutorial discretion policy with an enormous feeling of hope. But now it looks like just another disappointment for undocumented immigrants.