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Report Spinning Obama's Deportation Priorities Ignores Basic Facts

Published: Apr 30, 2014 By: Matthew L. Kolken

The Migration Policy Institute has released a report co-authored by Marc R. Rosenblum and Doris Meissner, which purports to examine "current pipelines for removal and key trends in border and interior apprehensions, deportations and criminal prosecutions." 

They make the following claim:

What is new is that the Obama administration also has implemented prosecutorial discretion policies to focus enforcement efforts, even as the overall scope of enforcement has grown. These policies provide guidelines for exercising discretion not to deport certain people in cases that are outside established priority categories. 

Overall, enforcement at the border and within the United States show sharply different pictures. At the border, there is a near zero-tolerance system, where unauthorized immigrants are increasingly subject to formal removal and criminal charges. Within the country, there is greater flexibility, with priorities and resources focused on a smaller share of the population subject to removal.


Let's cut to the chase. Has the Obama administration "implemented prosecutorial discretion policies to focus enforcement efforts, even as the overall scope of enforcement has grown" as claimed? According to Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration, and anyone that actually practices deportation defense, the answer is an emphatic: NO. 

Just this past week TRAC reported that:

(24 Apr 2014) The use of prosecutorial discretion (PD) by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to close cases in the Immigration Courts continues to be relatively rare -- only 6.7 percent of cases were closed on this basis between October 2012 and March 2014. Overall PD usage has hovered in the six to eight percent range for months, though its use varies widely by location.

As of March 31, 2014, Immigration Courts with ICE PD closures in the three to four percent range included those in San Antonio, New York City, Las Vegas and Newark. The Houston, Buffalo and El Paso courts saw even lower levels: less than three percent. On the other hand, the PD closure rate for the Tucson and Seattle courts has been about 30 percent during the past 18 months.

Moreover, the administration is NOT employing "smart immigration enforcement" in the interior of the United States. In FY 2013 only 12% of all deportations involved individuals that committed serious "Level 1" offenses based on the Obama administration's own definitions. So if they aren't deporting serious criminals, who are they deporting? People with immigration and traffic violations of course.

It should be noted that Mr. Rosenblum served as a member of then President-elect Obama's Immigration Policy Transition Team in 2009. Ms. Meisner was the former Commissioner of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) serving under President Clinton. I'll allow you to draw your own conclusions.

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