Immigration Update: Maximizing Public Safety and Better Focusing Resources
Posted by Cecilia Muñoz on August 18, 2011 at 02:00 PM EDT
President Obama is deeply committed to fixing our immigration laws and has been aggressively searching for partners in Congress who are willing to work with him to pass a new law. As he focuses on building a new 21st century immigration system that meets our nation’s economic and security needs, the President has a responsibility to enforce the existing laws in a smart and effective manner. This means making decisions that best focus the resources that Congress gives the Executive Branch to do this work. There are more than 10 million people who are in the U.S. illegally; it’s clear that we can’t deport such a large number. So the Administration has developed a strategy to make sure we use those resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first. If you were running a law enforcement agency anywhere in the world, you would target those who pose the greatest harm before those who do not. Our immigration enforcement work is focused the same way.
Under the President’s direction, for the first time ever the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States. And they have succeeded; in 2010 DHS removed 79,000 more people who had been convicted of a crime compared to 2008. Today, they announced that they are strengthening their ability to target criminals even further by making sure they are not focusing our resources on deporting people who are low priorities for deportation. This includes individuals such as young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. It also includes individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel. It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes.
So DHS, along with the Department of Justice, will be reviewing the current deportation caseload to clear out low-priority cases on a case-by-case basis and make more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk. And they will take steps to keep low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline in the first place. They will be applying common sense guidelines to make these decisions, like a person’s ties and contributions to the community, their family relationships and military service record. In the end, this means more immigration enforcement pressure where it counts the most, and less where it doesn’t – that’s the smartest way to follow the law while we stay focused on working with the Congress to fix it.
Cecilia Muñoz is White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs
LETTER FROM U.S Department of Homeland Security
Thank you for your letter to President Obama regarding the Administration’s immigration enforcement policies and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. The President has asked me to respond on his behalf.
Over the past two years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established clear and well-reasoned priorities that govern how DHS uses its immigration enforcement resources. These priorities focus our resources on enhancing border security and identifying and removing criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety and national security, repeat immigration law violators and other individuals prioritized for removal. Initially set forth in a March 2010 memorandum from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, these priorities were recently reiterated and clarified in Director Morton’s June 17,2011 memorandum regarding the exercise of prose cut oria I discretion by ICE personnel.
While additional work remains, we have made tremendous progress in our effort to focus DHS resources on these enforcement priorities. Our FY 2010 statistics are illustrative. In FY 2010, ICE removed 79,000 more aliens who had been convicted ofa crime than it did in FY 2008. As a result, for the first time ever and due to the expansion of the Secure Communities program, over 50 percent of the aliens removed by ICE in a fiscal year were convicted criminals. Of those removed with no confirmed criminal conviction, more than two-thirds were either apprehended at the border or were repeat violators of our immigration laws. As enforcement directives continue to be implemented, we anticipate that these trends will increase in FY 2011.
The President has said on numerous occasions that it makes no sense to expend our enforcement resources on low-priority cases, such as individuals like those you reference in your letter, who were brought to this country as young children and know no other home. From a law enforcement and public safety perspective, DHS enforcement resources must continue to be focused on our highest priorities. Doing otherwise hinders our public safety mission-clogging immigration court dockets and diverting DHS enforcement resources away from individuals who pose a threat to public safety.
Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528 Homeland
www.dhs.govThe Honorable Harry Reid Page 2
Accordingly, the June 17,2011 prosecutorial discretion memorandum is being implemented to ensure that resources are uniformly focused on our highest priorities. Together with the Department of Justice (DOJ), we have initiated an interagency working group to execute a case-by-case review of all individuals currently in removal proceedings to ensure that they constitute our highest priorities. The working group will also initiate a case-by-case review to ensure that new cases placed in removal proceedings similarly meet such priorities. In addition, the working group will issue guidance on how to provide for appropriate discretionary consideration to be given to compelling cases involving a final order of removal. Finally, we will work to ensure that the resources saved as a result of the efficiencies generated through this process are dedicated to further enhancing the identification and removal of aliens who pose a threat to public safety.
This case-by-case approach will enhance public safety. Immigration judges will be able to more swiftly adjudicate high priority cases, such as those involving convicted felons. This process will also allow additional federal enforcement resources to be focused on border security and the removal of public safety threats.
Although the process for implementing the June 17 memorandum will focus the Administration’s immigration enforcement efforts on high priority cases, it will not provide categorical relief for any group. Thus, this process will not alleviate the need for passage of the DREAM Act or for larger reforms to our immigration laws. President Obama has called the DREAM Act the right thing to do for the young people it would affect, and the right thing to do for the country. Last December, I joined the President and several members of his Cabinet in urging the Congress to pass this important legislation. Earlier this year I was fortunate to be able to testify in favor of the Act. I continue to urge the 112thCongress to pass the DREAM Act as well as other necessary immigration reforms.
Thank you again for your letter. My office would be pleased to provide you with a briefing to discuss this process in greater detail. Identical responses have been sent to the Senators that co-signed your letter. Should you wish additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me at (202) 282-8203.
Yours very truly, Janet Napolitano
RESPONSE from United States Senator
Feinstein Applauds New Administration
Policy on Immigration Enforcement
Focus will shift to highest deportation priorities, deferring action on DREAM Act-eligible youth
Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today issued a statement after the Obama Administration announced new immigration enforcement measures. The new policy will prioritize cases involving violent criminals while deferring action in cases involving children with good records.
The Department of Homeland Security announced the changes in response to a letter Senator Feinstein and her colleagues sent to the President in April.
“The Obama Administration made a wise decision today to focus immigration enforcement resources on felons, gang members and individuals who pose national security threats,” said Senator Feinstein.
“I am pleased the new policy will benefit college students and veterans. Young people who arrived here at an early age and either serve in the military or are in good academic standing should not be removed from the country and separated from their families. Instead, they should be allowed to reach their full potential as productive American citizens.
“While we have more work to do on immigration reform, this is a positive step in the right direction.”