Today, the Department of Homeland Security will begin its review of the 300,000 pending deportation cases, distinguishing between "high priority" and "low priority" individuals, and also commence a training program for enforcement officials and attorneys in related cases, according to the New York Times.
The DHS's review of such cases, outlined in John Morton's June 17th memorandum, aims to categorize deportation cases based on certain criteria -- hastening the trials of those who have committed crimes, and halting the proceedings of college graduates, those who have resided in the country from a young age, and non-criminals.
The New York Times reported that today DHS will release its first guidelines for immigration officials to begin a training program and the review of those pending cases.
A senior Homeland Security official, who requested anonymity, said in an interview with the Times, that the program was meant to empower attorneys "to make them more like federal prosecutors, who decide what cases to bring."
Many immigrant activists see the prioritization effort on the behalf of the DHS as a welcome acknowledgement of the complexity of the immigration issue.
Earlier this month, Benita Veliz, a high school valedictorian and college graduate, was spared deportation because of the Morton memorandum's guidelines, her lawyer said. Veliz, who demonstrated exemplary academic achievements in high school and college and has lived in the United States for most of her life, has been described as a "poster child" for the DREAM Act.
However, Benita Veliz, like most beneficiaries of the prioritization effort, now finds herself in legal limbo. Veliz's deportation proceedings have been dropped, yet she will not be recognized as legally residing in the United States. In order to obtain a work permit, she would have to leave the United States and face a 10-year ban before she could return.
Critics of DHS's prioritization effort, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group which calls for a reduction in legal and undocumented immigration, say the program is an implicit endorsement of illegal immigration.
FAIR's website says the Morton memo "constitutes nothing less than the granting of administrative amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens currently in the United States."
Despite the initial relief the new DHS policy brought to communities of immigrants, critics say the policy is being implemented inconsistently and ineffectively. Immigrant activists also point to the Obama administration's deportation record as part of their continued disillusionment.
The Obama administration removed nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants in the last fiscal year -- a new record in the United States.
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