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July 27, 2021

Immigration Prosecutors Were Told Not to Push for Deportation in Cases Like His. He Was Ordered Deported the Next Day.
By Dara Lind

Biden, like his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, has tried to curb deportations of immigrants living inside the U.S. by urging prosecutors to use their discretion. The idea is based on the assumption that the government has neither the resources nor desire to deport every unauthorized immigrant living in the U.S., so immigration agents — and prosecutors — need to pursue certain immigrants as priorities and leave others alone. It’s both a strategy of compassion (providing a reprieve to some immigrants who could ultimately become U.S. citizens under the immigration-reform bills both presidents have supported) and one of triage (reserving scarce resources for removing people with serious criminal records and recent border crossers). The need for triage can be seen in the immigration courts’ chronic backlogs, which began during George W. Bush’s administration and grew under Presidents Obama and Trump. Today, the typical wait to adjudicate a deportation case is over 2 1/2 years. A similar program launched by Obama took about 75,000 immigrants off the deportation track, according to an analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The analysis showed that from 2013 to 2016, about 9% of all cases resolved in immigration court were closed as a result of the Obama administration’s policies of prosecutorial discretion. If prosecutors were to follow the new guidance and evaluate all of the 1.3 million cases currently in the court backlog, a 9% rate of relief would give roughly 120,000 immigrants a reprieve to stay in the U.S.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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