By Attorney Robert L. Reeves and Joseph I. Elias
The White House announced today that the Department of Homeland Security will launch a case-by-case review of the 300,000 deportation cases across the nation to focus its efforts on serious criminals. The White House said, “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.”
Examples of low priority cases are young people who were brought to this country as small children, and who know no other home. These are also known as DREAMERS because they are the intended beneficiaries of the proposed DREAM Act immigration bill. Other low priority cases include individuals such as military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel.
The White House stated the factors that will be taken into consideration in prioritizing deportation cases include a person’s ties and contributions to the community, his or her family relationships and military service record. The White House’s statements have been understood to mean that thousands of deportation cases will be halted if they do not involve serious criminals or flagrant immigration violations. It is also expected that immigrants who are determined to be low-priority cases could receive stays of deportation and a chance to apply for work permits.
It remains to be seen how this humane and rational approach to deportation will be implemented. Recent studies have shown that many deportation cases are not criminal-based cases. So, under the new initiative, deportation relief appears to be forthcoming for thousands.
Those currently in deportation proceedings, or, facing deportation proceedings will require competent legal counsel to make their cases that they should be handled as low-priority matters. Those with prior criminal records will especially need competent counsel. For example, a one-time conviction for petty shoplifting should not be treated as a high-priority case.
There is a lot of promise in the new initiative for many families and individuals facing the specter of deportation. In spite of this promise, people should not take on the government alone, but, obtain the assistance of qualified and competent immigration attorney. This way, the odds of obtaining relief in the immigration system will be greatly improved.