On August 18th, DHS made public a new interagency process designed to ensure that resources are focused on the current administration’s greatest enforcement priorities. Involved in the process is the collaboration of DHS and DOJ officers and attorneys, including representatives of DHS and EOIR, as well as the DOJ’s Office of Immigration Litigation, in working together to identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for an exercise of discretion. Such review will occur on a case-by-case basis and will take into consideration cases that are at various stages of enforcement proceedings, including charging and hearing phases as well as the period after a final order of removal has been entered. The DHS-and DOJ-based group will also provide guidance to prevent low-priority cases from entering the system on a case-by-case basis. Resources conserved through this process will be applied to higher priority removal matters.
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the unveiling of the abovementioned process specifically through a letter, dated August 18th, addressed to Senator Dick Durbin. Napolitano mentioned that the initiation of this new process was an implementation of ideas asserted in a memorandum of June 17th prepared by ICE Director John Morton. This memorandum addressed several factors for ICE agents to consider in deciding whether to exercise prosecutorial discretion, weighing mitigating factors for aliens such as lawful permanent resident status, U.S. military service, and evidence of serious mental or physical disabilities against aggravating factors such as risks to national security, serious felons, and repeat offenders (especially those in an immigration violation context).
Napolitano added that inspiration for the August 18th measure also arose from President Obama’s admonishments that it is a waste of resources to enforce against low-priority matters, such as aliens who have been in the United States since their youth and know no other home. The ideals enacted in this measure ensure that resources are more effectively preserved to enforce against threats to the safety of the American public. More particularly, through a more proper employment of resources, immigration judges will be able to more swiftly address higher priority immigration matters, and federal enforcement agencies will be able to address border security matters more readily. On the whole, these recently-enacted measures aim to streamline the prioritization of national security matters so that federal resources may be best used for enforcement against our country’s greatest threats, as well as for protection of those seeking to build a constructive future in the United States.