On August 18th, the Obama administration's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that they will review all cases that are in removal proceedings in order to prioritize those involving individuals who have committed crimes or are identified as potential security risks. This is not a new amnesty program. This is not a benefit for which an application can be submitted. Instead, it clarifies how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton's June 17, 2011 prosecutorial discretion memo will be implemented. DHS and DOJ together will conduct a thorough review to ensure that cases in removal proceedings meet the "high priority" standard as described in the June 17 memo. DOJ and DHS intend to ensure that new cases placed in removal proceedings will similarly meet the priorities for removal.
The announcement indicates that cases at all stages, including those before immigration judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and federal circuit courts of appeal will be reviewed. It is estimated that 300,000 cases will be examined in this process.
Who are the "low priority" individuals whose removal cases will be reconsidered?
-Individuals who were brought to the U.S. as small children;
-Spouses of active-duty personnel;
-Individuals with strong ties and contributions to the community;
-Individuals with family relationships, including LGBT family relationships.
The review will be conducted on an individual, case-by-case basis. Cases deemed eligible will be administratively closed and individuals may be eligible to apply for employment authorization.
While this announcement is a positive development, questions regarding the manner of implementation, the means of identifying qualified cases, the role of representatives in flagging cases for consideration, and other important concerns remain. It is crucial that you inform your clients that they must attend all removal proceedings until official notice is received indicating the case has been administratively closed. At this point, we do not have any details about the number of cases that will be administratively closed or when action may be taken.