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DHS Deportation Policy Causing a Stir

With the 2012 election little more than a year away, DHS's new deportation policy has the potential to gather strength as a political issue in the coming year as well as provide a coherent strategy for managing the removal of unauthorized immigrants.

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Though nearly overshadowed by an earthquake and hurricane, another development causing a stir in Washington is the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement on August 18 to focus its resources on detaining and removing the highest-priority individuals—those who present a threat to public safety or national security—instead of low-priority individuals including children, military family members, and same-sex spouses.

The policy fits squarely within both the administration’s authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion in deportation cases and its responsibility to use taxpayers’ dollars wisely. Prosecutorial discretion— deciding which cases to pursue and which to drop based on law enforcement priorities—is central to effective law enforcement, yet critics are decrying the policy as a politically motivated move to attract the Latino vote and as an unconstitutional end-run around Congress.

At the same time, while the policy is drawing applause from many groups, including some conservatives and evangelicals, many in the advocacy community are wary that the policy’s promise on paper won’t live up to its application in practice.

With the 2012 election little more than a year away, this relatively quiet August announcement has the potential to gather strength as a political issue in the coming year as well as provide a coherent strategy for managing the removal of unauthorized immigrants.

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