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John Lennon's deportation case uncovered secret policy

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Some Maryland residents may recall that John Lennon had immigration problems in the United States. In 1972, Lennon hired an immigration attorney because he was being targeted for deportation after an alleged overstay. Work that Lennon's attorney did during that time led to the discovery of prosecutorial discretion, an immigration policy that was once kept secret.

Prosecutorial discretion is a policy that allows immigration officials to delay deportation proceedings for certain individuals who might have sympathetic arguments for remaining in the U.S. Although certain immigrants may have overstayed their visas, immigration officials can use prosecutorial discretion to defer deportation proceedings. Today, prosecutorial discretion is used in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

During Lennon's time, prosecutorial discretion was a secret policy that immigration attorneys did not know about. However, Lennon's attorney suspected that a program like that existed, so he filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out if he was right. When the answer to the request came back, the attorney's suspicions were confirmed, and Lennon eventually qualified for a green card. Lennon's immigration case also forced immigration officials to go public with their secret policy of prosecutorial discretion.

Immigration attorneys today understand that they can seek prosecutorial discretion for their clients with sympathetic cases. If an undocumented immigrant was brought to the U.S. as a young child or has a sick family member in the U.S., immigration officials may defer deportation in the case. An immigration attorney may be able to go over the details of an individual's situation to determine what type of relief cold be sought.

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