New ICE Removal Policy Is Not Amnesty For Immigrants

After a tad bit of reading, I’m of the opinion that the new Obama policy everyone is fussing about is not actually amnesty.  It doesn’t create new grounds of relief for someone in removal proceedings.  It doesn’t eliminate existing grounds of inadmissibility.  It’s just a faster way of doing what would probably happen anyways.  It’s a way of making life easier (and less profitable) for immigration lawyers.  It’s a way of unclogging the dockets in immigration courts.

Let’s take a look at the policy, outlined in the August 20th ICE memo from John Morton.  The memo orders two things: expedited processing and — if specific criteria are met — dismissal without prejudice of removal cases.  First, Morton requests expedited processing for cases where the alien has a visa application pending with the USCIS.  For detained aliens, the USCIS must now decide the case in 30 days.  For non-detained aliens, the USCIS has 45 days.  Amnesty? No.  Efficiency? Yes.

Morton then requests dismissal of removal cases that meet the following criteria: (1) the alien is eligible for relief from removal as a matter of law and in ICE’s discretion, (2) the alien has a pending application with the USCIS, (3) the alien is eligible for adjustment of status, including eligibility for any waivers of inadmissibility.

Thus, ICE only recommends dismissal where the alien is already eligible to stay here legally.  The memo essentially says to ICE lawyers, “If you’re gonna lose in immigration court, then go ahead and drop the case.”  But the policy does not grant relief where it’s not available under the law.  On this point, the memo’s very explicit:  “[A] waiver must be available for any ground of inadmissibility.”

In sum, the new ICE policy is an attempt to expedite enforcement measures.  It’s not a grant of amnesty.

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