Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has revealed some statistics regarding President Obama’s purported granting of additional discretion to prosecutors in deciding which deportation cases to advance. According to an analysis by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, ICE reviewed approximately 220,000 of the pending deportation cases and identified 16,544 as amenable for prosecutorial discretion. This represents 7.5% of the cases reviewed. The vast majority of the cases involve non-detained cases, i.e., cases in which the alien in removal proceedings is not currently being detained by ICE in an immigration facility.
Of the non-detained cases, only 2,722 cases have been administratively closed. This represents a little more than 1 percent of the cases reviewed. This suggests to me that not much has changed and that prosecutors are administratively closing cases at about the same rate as they were before the much heralded Morton memo and Napolitano press conference. While the statistics do suggest that some of the cases which have been administratively closed involve young students (approximately 350), these cases represent a miniscule part of those people being deported.
The Obama administration needs to do a whole lot more to clear the nation’s backlog in immigration court. While greater prosecutorial discretion is a small step forward, the immigration courts need greater funding to process these cases in an efficient and equitable manner. Greater transperancy and uniformity is also needed. But there is little political will for this. Instead, we are left with platitudes and broken promises.