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Review of immigrants' deportation cases passes halfway mark

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According to information released by the Department of Homeland Security, the review of more than 400,000 deportation cases to weed out immigrants with clean criminal records and ties to family in the U.S. is more than halfway over. But after reviewing approximately 288,000 deportation cases during the past seven months, only about 4,400 cases have been closed, far less than the number many had initially expected.

As mentioned in prior posts, the initiative has been part of Washington's immigration policy of becoming tougher on immigrants with criminal records while providing greater leniency to those who have not committed criminal offenses. After a review of an immigrant's file and a background check, those who meet the criteria can have their deportation stayed.

But while they can stay in the United States after their case has been closed, their future in the country remains uncertain. They are not provided with the legal right to work and are not given a definite immigration status. A number of immigrants unsatisfied with this potential outcome have instead chosen to turn down the government's offer of "prosecutorial discretion," the term for suspending a deportation case.

About 4,000 of those who could have had their deportation cases closed are now pursuing their immigration cases in court, where they believe they have a better chance of achieving their goals. Their choice shows that immigrants offered prosecutorial discretion have an option besides accepting the offer. But immigrants should be fully informed of the consequences before making a decision.

Department of Homeland Security representatives indicated that they hoped to complete the review of all deportation cases by the end of the year. They believe as many as 20,000 immigrants will be eligible to have their cases closed.

Source: The New York Times, "Deportations Continue Despite U.S. Review of Backlog," Julia Preston, June 6, 2012.

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