President Barack Obama, taking a new approach to the nation’s immigration woes, recently announced his administration would use “prosecutorial discretion” as it sorts through the 300,000 deportation cases involving illegal immigration.
Celebration broke out among supporters of immigrants who may be here illegally, even though implementation of the new policy by the Department of Homeland Security, which handles immigration, has just begun.
In this instance, prosecutorial discretion is the idea that executive branch has the option, on a case-by-case basis, to decline to enforce immigration laws against certain individuals.
The administration’s basis for deciding whether to prosecute will be the same criteria for citizenship under the failed Dream ACT of 2010, a Senate bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for immigrants who were attending school, who served in the U.S. military or who were brought here illegally by parents. The bill did not win congressional approval.
Obama’s immigration policy gives illegal immigrants without criminal backgrounds in deportation cases the opportunity to have their cases suspended and possibly the chance to earn a work permit. The administration confirmed that some of the 300,000 illegal immigrants without criminal histories could obtain a work permit and remain in the states indefinitely.
“We will closely monitor the implementation of this process to ensure that it is applied robustly and that it brings public safety squarely into focus,” said Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. “Advocates across the country have been doing an incredible amount of work to share the countless stories of how the current policies are creating fear and suffering in communities nationwide. We are hopeful that this new action will bring us to a place where community safety is the focus of enforcement actions, and the pain felt in communities is diminished.”
Murguía said the new policy would allow the Department of Homeland Security to apply more resources to the most serious cases. “Focusing on the greatest threats is just plain common sense when it comes to law enforcement,” she said.