Fewer Than 3,000 Immigration Cases Closed Under New Obama Policy
April 24, 2012

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that the approximately 2,700 cases closed under the new prosecutorial discretion policy represent 7.5 percent of the cases reviewed for consideration. This is incorrect. Cases closed represent 1.2 percent of cases reviewed. Some 7.5 percent of all cases reviewed have been identified as "amenable" for prosecutorial discretion, meaning others could still be closed.


On Tuesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released its most comprehensive results to date of the so-called “prosecutorial discretion” policy.

According to the data, ICE has reviewed nearly three quarters of the estimated 300,000 cases pending in immigration courts across the country. Of those reviewed, some 2,700 cases were closed, or 1.2 percent.

That means those individuals can remain in this country, although their immigration status doesn’t change, and most still can't legally work.

Approximately 7.5 percent of cases reviewed were identified as "amenable" to closure under the new policy, but have not yet been closed.

“That’s so disappointing,” Bill Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, said of the low percentage of cases closed under the new policy.

Hing said immigration authorities across the country haven’t implemented the policy consistently. When politicians intervene in certain cases, he said, they often get dropped.

“It makes practitioners, and it makes me, kind of scratch our heads because of the inconsistencies," he said. "And you do kind of wonder, do you have to have political pressure or publicity before you get granted prosecutorial discretion?”

According to ICE, of the individuals granted relief from deportation under the new policy, the majority have lived in the U.S. for a long time, have an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen and have compelling ties to the country.

One hundred individuals who suffer from serious mental or physical conditions have been granted relief, along with 175 school children and 182 young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children and are pursuing or have completed higher education in the U.S.

While prosecutorial discretion is a nationwide policy, immigration authorities conducted two pilot programs in late 2011 in which nearly all immigration cases pending before courts in Baltimore and Denver were reviewed for potential closure. In Denver, The New York Times reported, nearly 7,900 cases were reviewed and 1,300 foreigners were allowed to stay in the U.S.

Recently, ICE announced plans to conduct similar reviews in various cities around the country, including in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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