What to Watch for in Immigration - Week of January 20, 2014

Happy Martin Luther King Junior Day!

Is there a quota for how many immigrants should be detained?  According to a recent report out of the New York Daily News there is.  This is particularly troubling because no other law enforcement agencies have a quota for the number of people they should keep in jail.  This is unprecedented and unique to immigration.  It is important to remember that this is not the number of people the government wants to deport, only the number of immigrants it wants to keep detained while they await a decision as to whether or not they will be deported.  In other words, many of these men and women are individuals who qualify for relief from deportation and have no valid reason to be detained at all, much less month after month until an immigration judge decides what to do with them.  Good job Homeland Security!  We hope this makes you feel better about yourself....

Democrats renew support of a path to citizenship.  Many Democrats and immigration activists renewed their commitment to a pathway to citizenship over the weekend, stressing that any immigration proposal must include citizenship guarantees in addition to other reforms.  Many went so far as to state that legalization without citizenship would be a deal breaker.

The Supreme Court is set to review "aging out."  In reviewing Mayorkas v. Cuellar de Osorio, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon have to chance to change the review the current law where children "age out" of family visa applications.  Currently, when a child turns 21 they are no longer considered to be under their parents' status and must through a new petition status.  Depending on their individual circumstances, that could take decades.  Back in 2002, Congress passed the Child Status Protection Act to protect kids who aged out due to visa backlogs, but it has never been universally agreed whether or not the act applies to everyone or just those with parents who have applied for them.  Hopefully things will get cleared up.

Is the use of prosecutorial discretion on the rise in immigration courts?  It looks like it depends on which court your talking about.  For several years, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been encouraged to close the cases of certain immigrants with mitigating factors, such as long periods of residence in the U.S., the lack of a criminal history, or U.S. citizen children.  Until recently, the change in policy has been a little slow to take effect.  However, nationwide about 20% of case closures are now based on prosecutorial discretion.  Still, much depends on the court.  In Los Angeles, roughly 24% of case closures were based on prosecutorial discretion, while only 1.7% of cases were closed in Houston.  Here's hoping for continued progress.

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