How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Obama to grant 'deferred action,' work permits to some young undocumented immigrants

Photo by Corey Moore/KPCC

Undocumented students and their supporters protest in federal office building in Los Angeles, October 12, 2011

The Obama administration announced this morning that it is granting deferred action to undocumented young people who meet certain criteria, and will even give them work permits. Is it a big deal? Definitely. The move could affect hundreds of thousandsof young people who came to the United States as minors and have been unable to adjust their immigration status.

It's also interesting in terms of election-year political timing, with the Obama administration getting unfavorable reviews lately over its ongoing deportation case reviews, which have yielded relief for very few immigrants so far, just over 4,000 out of roughly 300,000 cases. And the fact that two Republican lawmakers have been floating proposals that could keep some undocumented college students and military hopefuls in the country has likely played a part also.

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ICE deportation reviews by the numbers, updated

Photo by olongapowoodcraft/Flickr (Creative Commons)


A post last month broke down the Obama administration's deportation case reviews by the numbers though mid-April, looking at how many cases had been reviewed and how many had been shelved, which wasn't many.

With the bulk of the roughly 300,000 initial reviews of pending cases completed by now, much the same holds true. Of these, a little more than 4,000 deportation cases have been administratively closed or dismissed since the reviews began in November, although immigration officials say there will be more.

Meanwhile, about 111,000 newly filed cases are also being reviewed as they are added to the immigration court caseload. The idea behind the reviews, announced last summer, is to weed out "low priority" immigrants who could be eligible to stay under new prosecutorial discretion guidelines established by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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ICE deportation reviews by the numbers, explained

The review of some 300,000 deportation cases in the nation's backlogged immigration courts recently led to some confusing headlines after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that about 16,500 pending cases would be temporarily put on hold, which some translated into these cases being "shelved."

But that's not exactly how it works. As the review process continues, there are no guarantees for those so far deemed eligible for relief. And even for the few spared removal to date, the future is uncertain.

Here's some of the recently released ICE data on the deportation reviews, followed by an explanation of what it means. From ICE:

• In total, ICE has reviewed 219,554 pending cases with approximately 16,544, or 7.5%, identified as amenable for prosecutorial discretion as of April 16, 2012.

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Is prosecutorial discretion leading to fewer deportation cases?

Are the prosecutorial discretion guidelines issued by the Obama administration last year having an effect on the number of deportation cases that the administration is pursuing?

A new Syracuse University report suggests yes, federal immigration officials say no, and some lawmakers are calling "amnesty" nonetheless.

First, the report: Issued in recent days by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, the number of deportation proceedings begun in the nation's immigration courts between October and December of last year (the first quarter of federal fiscal year 2012) "fell sharply to only 39,331 — down 33 percent from 58,639 filings recorded the previous quarter," a drop of more than 10,000 cases filed. The report notes that since filings are typically lower at that time of year, the numbers were adjusted for seasonal drop-off. It continues:

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NSEERS and 'special registration' are gone, but long-term effects continue

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Last spring, Homeland Security announced that it was officially ending what was perhaps the most controversial immigration-national security program implemented in the immediate wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, focused on non-citizen men from 25 Muslim-majority countries with the goal of collecting their fingerprints, photographs, and monitoring their whereabouts. 

In the beginning, those who met the criteria had to participate in a "special registration" that required reporting to immigration officials for questioning, some having to travel long distances to do so. This provision was suspended in 2003 amid much public and political criticism. But of the 83,519 men interviewed under special registration between September 2002 and September 2003, according to Homeland Security statistics, 13,799 landed in deportation proceedings.

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