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Deportation Review Gives Reprieves To 2,609 Immigrants

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Protesters gather outside the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, to protest federal deportation policies.
Protesters gather outside the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, to protest federal deportation policies.

WASHINGTON -- A review of about 300,000 pending deportation cases resulted in 2,609 men and women being allowed to stay in the U.S. -- at least temporarily -- as of the end of March because the government considers them low priority, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found.

The findings, based on a Freedom of Information Act request, were released on Thursday and show the scope of a review process already underway in 69 immigration courts and expanding to Seattle, Detroit, New Orleans and Orlando in coming months.

The Obama administration announced in August 2011 it would review each case on the immigration court docket and close some it deems low priority.

The program was piloted in Baltimore and Denver. But the numbers provided by the government to the Syracuse University-affiliated Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse show the administration closed cases in 69 immigration courts across the U.S.

Of the 2,609 deportation cases closed, 230 were in Baltimore, 218 were in Los Angeles and 207 were in New York City. A small percentage of the cases closed were in courts based in detention centers or processing centers.

A stated reason for the review was to stop low-level cases -- non-criminals and young people who came to the U.S. as children, for example -- from "clogging the system," senior administration officials said in August.

But the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found that the number of cases closed so far amounts to a small fraction of cases on immigration court dockets. In Baltimore, where there were 5,256 cases pending in September, closing 230 cut the caseload by less than 5 percent.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton laid out the administration's deportation priorities in a June 2011 memo. Even if an immigrant's deportation case is closed, the person could be deported at any time, especially if they commit a crime.

The Obama administration broke the record for deportations in the 2011 fiscal year, sending away 396,906 people.

See the slideshow below for some of the types of cases that could be closed based on the review process:

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