[Posted by Karl]
In a move that could shake up the U.S. immigration system, the Department of Homeland Security is going to begin reviewing all 300,000 pending deportation cases in federal immigration courts to determine which individuals meet specific criteria for removal and to focus on “our highest priorities.”
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said the review will enhance public safety. “Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons,” Napolitano wrote Thursday in a letter to assistant majority leader Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and 21 other senators including Indiana Republican Richard Lugar.
But the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which advocates changing policies to decrease the number of immigrants coming to the United States, said in a statement on its website that the action by the Obama administration “amounts to an administrative amnesty and a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration policy without approval by Congress.”
Patterico has long championed the idea of “Deport the Criminals First.” However, a review of the June ICE memo (.pdf) detaling the new policy makes clear that the prosecutorial discretion involved is not limited to prioritizing deportations, but decisions to arrest, settle or dismiss proceedings, defer action, grant parole, etc. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times describes the new policy as “virtually stopping deporting students who are in the U.S. illegally, taking steps even as Congress has resisted passing the DREAM Act.” Sen. Durbin issued a statement adding that when reviews of individual cases result in cases being closed, those individuals “will be able to apply for certain immigration benefits, including work authorization.”
So… if not backdoor amnesty, a big step in that direction. Sweet, to her credit, duly notes that the move came as Hispanic groups have been stepping up complaints about Obama’s illegal immigration policy.