The New York Times reports that after seven months of an “ambitious” review by the Obama administration of all pending deportation orders fewer than 2 percent have been closed.
The Obama administration announced the deportation order reviews last August as a response to
criticism they received for its record-breaking deportation rate that included DREAM Act-eligible youth, parents of U.S. citizen children and people who had never been convicted of anything.
Under the review of more than 411,000 deportation cases, the first of its kind, fewer than 2 percent have been closed so far. The numbers fall far short of expectations raised among immigrants, including many Latinos, when top administration officials announced they would comb through backlogged court dockets to close cases where the immigrants had strong family ties to this country and no criminal records.
The review started in November. As of May 29, immigration prosecutors had examined 288,361 cases, according to new official figures. To date, 4,403 deportation cases have been closed.
“The data confirms what advocates have been saying for the last year: a discretion based system of relief is unlikely to yield significant results as long as the whole ICE system is set up to deport hundreds of thousands each year,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter. “Programs like Secure Communities and the now expanding Fugitive Operations program continue to function as deportation dragnets, filling unspoken deportation quotas and jumping into high gear when these numbers are not met.”
Department of Homeland Security officials told the NY Times the review has been slowed by bureaucratic delays with criminal background checks of the immigrants. They said many thousands more deportations could be suspended in coming months.
“There’s significant irony in ICE’s claim that the low levels of discretionary relief are a result of holdups in the background check process. ICE has no problem running background checks on people the agency plans to deport,” said Wessler. “The agency’s flagship Secure Communities program deports tens of thousands each year because of automatic background checks run on people booked into local jails. Yet when it comes to providing people relief from deportation, ICE claims it can’t run the checks quickly enough.”