A new directive released by the Obama administration aims to ease deportations of parents. Federal immigration authorities are instructed to look at familial connections when making decisions about whether to deport individuals or not. The directive released on Friday does not prevent deportations altogether of undocumented parents or high-priority criminal immigrants, but it does allow detained individuals to still make caregiver decisions for their children.
Thanks to President Obama, the new directive asks that immigration agents exercise prosecutorial discretion as soon as possible when an immigrant is detained. They need to find out if the individual is a primary caretaker right away and allow the creation of a “field point of contact.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are supposed to place the detained parents in facilities close in proximity to their children.
In an attempt to address concerns that deportations are separating families and hurting children who are American citizens, a similar provision was included in the immigration bill passed by the Senate back in May. The amendment would allow detained parents the ability to find caretaker options for their children in the case that they will indeed be deported. The directive drew some criticism on Friday when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte slammed the administration’s decisions to broaden the scope of prosecutorial discretion. “President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants,” he said in a statement. He also stated that while the House is working to create a bill that improves the immigration system, others are politicizing the issue and undermining efforts of lawmakers.
While the Obama administration received similar criticism back in 2011 when they advised federal immigration law enforcement to prioritize criminal immigrants for deportation proceedings, the government still deported a number of low-priority undocumented parents. There are over 205,000 parents of U.S. citizen children who have been deported between 2010 to 2012. The new directive is an attempt to help thousands of children whose parents are being held in adult detention facilities awaiting their deportation proceedings.
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