The decline in deportations still leaves immigrants vulnerable
According to recently released government statistics, there has been a 43% decline in deportations ordered by immigration judges. Unfortunately, these statistics do not include “expedited removals” — individuals who are issued a deportation order at the border without ever seeing an immigration judge. Those numbers are on the rise.
For today’s purposes, let’s stick to the court-ordered deportation decline. This can be attributed to several factors.
• More immigrants are hiring competent attorneys to assist them with their defense.
Respondents (the term used to describe individuals facing deportation in the immigration court; similar to “the defendant” in criminal court) with legal representation are at least five times as likely to win their cases as those without, according to the New York Times. Judges granting cases equals less deportations.
• The Department of Homeland Security’s judicious use of “prosecutorial discretion” is working.
As I wrote previously, prosecutorial discretion is a way for the government to focus its energies on “high priority” cases (such as people with serious criminal convictions, or people with existing deportation orders who remained in the United States). In the “Morton Memo“, Immigration and Customs Enforcement acknowledges that it is confronted with more cases than it has the resources to pursue. As noted in the New York Times article, “Homeland Security officials said the court statistics reflected their efforts to focus on deporting convicted criminals, foreigners posing security threats and recent illegal border crossers.”
Prosecutorial discretion has many facets. ICE may decide not to file a Notice to Appear (the “charging document” with the Immigration Court) at all. In doing so, that case never reaches the judge’s docket. Or, ICE may decide to offer prosecutorial discretion to a respondent already in court proceedings, and thus close the court case without a deportation. (Bear in mind: an offer of prosecutorial discretion simply means that ICE is not actively pursuing that individual’s deportation. It does NOT result in a “green card” or any “status” in the United States. And if ICE ever changes its mind, it can very easily re-activate a case.)
Fending off deportation in front of an immigration judge is a scary and arduous process. But, as the article shows, all hope need not be lost. If you would like to sit down with an attorney for an assessment of your case, I invite you to contact me.