The review of deportation cases is part of the White House's attempts to tackle the immigration issue.
20 January 2012
US immigration officials happy with new discretionary powers
US President Barack Obama's trial review of the backlog of deportation cases has been a success according to several US immigration officials. The new discretionary powers which allow officials to prioritise cases have pleased immigration enforcement officials, who can concentrate on particularly urgent cases.
A trial run of the program was carried out in Denver, Colorado in December and resulted in 16% of almost 8,000 deportation cases being allowed to remain in the US. However, while being deemed as posing no security risk, these cases have not been granted an American visa or any other form of legal status.
This has meant that, while the strategy has been largely welcomed by immigration advocacy groups, many have felt it does not go far enough and will leave those that are allowed to stay in an "immigration purgatory".
Beginning on 5th December 2011, US immigration officials in Denver began sifting through the backlog of cases and used their discretion to prioritise the most severe.
"It makes us feel good to know that some of these low priority cases will be placed at the back burner" said Corina Almeida, chief counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Denver. "These cases free up others to move to the front of the line; the egregious defenders, those who thumb their noses at the system or commit fraud".
The new discretionary powers are under a policy which is intended to be rolled out nationwide in an attempt to tackle the 300,000 deportation cases currently stuck in the country's courts.
The policy itself is a part of President Obama's efforts to tackle the immigration issue and appease the Latino community who have voiced their concerns that deportations tear families apart.
In an election year immigration becomes a sensitive issue as candidates on both sides of the political spectrum attempt to secure votes from the massive Latino community and Republicans have already criticised the scheme.
"This is part of a pattern of granting de facto amnesty to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States by the president's refusal to enforce US immigration laws" said Republican Representative Elton Gallegly.
The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.