More immigrants facing deportation in immigration courts across the nation are having their court cases closed because of Obama’s prosecutorial discretion policy, researchers at Syracuse University found.
Meanwhile, the number of removal proceedings initiated in immigration courts by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has dropped since the new policy was implemented.
In fiscal 2013, immigration courts cited the exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” (PD) as the reason to dismiss 16,306 cases.
That is a 68 percent increase from the 9,684 cases that were tossed in 2012 for the same reason.
In total, from October 2011 when Obama’s discretion policy was implemented through December 2013, there were 28,983 PD-related closures in immigration courts across the U.S.
The number of deportations proceedings initiated in immigration courts by ICE has also dropped since Obama’s discretion policy was implemented.
In fiscal 2013, ICE initiated 190,277 removal proceedings in immigration courts, a 21 percent drop from the 239,504 in fiscal 2011, the year prior to the beginning of prosecutorial discretion.
Overall, the number of ICE removals has also dropped ten percent in 2013.
As a percentage of all cases closed, the number of prosecutorial discretion closures in court is also on the rise.
In fiscal 2013, 8.5 percent of all case closures were based on prosecutorial discretion, up from 4.7 percent the previous year.
Some immigration courts reported that prosecutorial discretion resulted in almost three out of every ten cases closed.
“The Seattle Court led the nation with 29.8 percent PD closures. The Tucson court was in second place with 26.0 percent PD closures, while the Los Angeles Court was third with 23.7 percent. Rounding out the top five were the Omaha Court at 23.1 percent and the Phoenix Court at 20.7 percent,” according to the Syracuse University analysis.
Houston saw one of the lowest percentages of case closures based on Obama’s policy.
Syracuse University researchers found that “Houston was at 1.7 percent PD closures, New York City 3.7 percent, Chicago 5.0 percent, and Miami 6.3 percent.”
The prosecutorial discretion closures mentioned in this report only refer to those cases that actually make it to court. Some immigration cases are dealt with administratively by the Obama administration.
John Morton, then-Obama’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director, first announced the prosecutorial discretion policy in an October 2011 memo.
The new policy directed immigration enforcement officials to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in deciding which illegal aliens to remove from the U.S.
According to the memo, the purpose of the policy was to remove the worst criminal offenders while allowing other aliens such as those who were brought into the country as children to remain in the country.
One purpose of the policy is to reduce a backlog of cases in immigration courts, according to the White House.
However, Syracuse University found that the policy is also being used to deal with new immigration court cases.
The White House has extended the use of prosecutorial discretion to immigration law violators who are military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel.