On August 20, 2010, U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) established a new policy requiring that petitions filed on behalf of foreign nationals in removal proceedings be expedited by USCIS. The new mandate was issued in an effort to potentially decrease delays and eliminate the growing backlog of cases before the immigration courts. The policy memo confirms that ICE will work with USCIS to establish a framework for expediting meritorious petitions where USCIS has jurisdiction.
The new policy also directs ICE attorneys at the local level to review all pending removal proceedings where the foreign national is immediately eligible for an immigration benefit, and make a determination on whether those proceedings can be terminated. Factors to be considered include the foreign national's criminal record, immigration history, and ties to the United States. Terminating proceedings in these cases would allow the foreign nationals to have their applications decided by USCIS and may help to clear additional cases from the immigration courts' overburdened dockets.
Some have appeared to misunderstand the policy announcement, referring to it as "back-door amnesty." The policy does not grant legal status to those who would not otherwise be eligible. Instead, it allows clearly approvable cases to be moved to the agency for adjudication, and clears the immigration courts' dockets for cases where removal proceedings are more appropriate.