Today the Department of Homeland Security issued a letter to Congress announcing a new initiative to further concentrate their resources on the highest-priority removals and stop the deportations of low-priority cases such as children, military families, individuals brought here at a young age, and same-sex couples. The Center for American Progress released this statement:
We applaud the Department of Homeland Security for taking this welcome and important step toward aligning our immigration enforcement practices with our nation’s values and priorities. By focusing our enforcement resources on those who pose threats to our communities, rather than on immigrants who have committed no crimes, these guidelines will make our communities safer, save taxpayer dollars, and uphold our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.
This initiative represents another step in the ongoing process of making our immigration enforcement regime more effective and coherent by building on the prosecutorial discretion memo issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton on June 17, which clearly articulated the agency’s enforcement priorities.
The initiative launched today takes a giant step forward operationalizing the guidelines laid out in the Morton memo and extending their application throughout the entire immigration system. This unprecedented cross-agency effort, including the Department of Justice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services, will standardize removal and enforcement practices to ensure that resources are deployed effectively across the system.
As Angela Kelley, Vice President of Immigration Policy and Advocacy, notes: "Prioritizing resources and allowing prosecutors the discretion to decide which cases to pursue is law enforcement 101—a basic part of any police effort—and we applaud the administration for bringing this discretion to all facets of the immigration system.”
These guidelines do not constitute a lessening of enforcement but in fact a strengthening of it by allowing DHS and DOJ to stop wasting taxpayer resources on people who pose no threat to the public’s safety like hard-working parents, DREAMers brought to this country at a young age through no fault of their own, and same-sex couples simply because of their sexual orientation.
As Jeff Krehely, Director of LGBT Research and Communications at American Progress, noted: “Although new legislation is needed for gay couples to be treated equally as straight couples for immigration purposes, today’s announcement by the Obama Administration will be hugely helpful for bi-national same-sex couples, and will help many of them stay together in the United States.”
We believe that these new guidelines are a significant advancement in creating a smarter and more efficient enforcement system. But as Kelley noted, "We will be watching to make sure that the policy in practice is the same as the policy on paper and that the administration ensures the guidelines are implemented clearly and completely across all immigration agencies."
And though this initiative should go far in making immigration enforcement smarter, more efficient, and more humane, it is obviously not a solution to what ails our immigration system. We hope that Republicans and Democrats will be able to come together to make comprehensive reform a reality, but given the current state of Republican opposition to anything but costly, heavy-handed enforcement, the best interests of the American people may have to wait.
To speak with CAP’s immigration policy experts, please contact Raúl Arce-Contreras at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.5318.