US immigration case dismissals have grown in Houston, drawing calls for an inquiry.
22 October 2010
US immigration prosecution dismissals draw Senate calls for inquiry
The seven Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have called for an investigation into the dismissal of hundreds of US immigration cases in Houston, accusing Homeland Security officials of selectively enforcing the law.
In early August, Homeland Security trial attorneys started filing unsolicited motions in Houston to dismiss hundreds of immigration cases involving suspected illegal immigrants who have lived in the US for more than two years but who have not committed any serious crimes. In July, 27 cases were dismissed but in August 271 immigration cases were dismissed – and increase of more than 700 per cent. In September, 174 pending cases were dismissed by the immigration court in Huston.
The dismissals were first reported in the Houston Chronicle in late August igniting allegations that the Obama administration was implementing a kind of "backdoor amnesty" although this was strongly denied by officials.
Texas Senator John Cornyn and six colleagues wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday demanding a full report on the issue by November 15.
"It appears that your department is enforcing the law based on criteria it arbitrarily chose, with complete disregard for the enforcement laws created by Congress," the senators wrote.
Office for Immigration Review, which administers the nation's immigration court system, the number of dismissals in Houston courts shot up from 27 in July to 271 in August, an increase of more than 700 per cent. In September, judges dismissed 174 pending cases.
Matt Chandler, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesman, said the agency will respond directly to the senators.
"The idea that DHS is engaged in 'selective enforcement' couldn't be further from the truth," Chandler said.
"In fact, this administration has fundamentally changed the way the federal government approaches immigration enforcement, doing more to keep criminal aliens who are threats to public safety - including murderers, rapists and child molesters - off our streets than ever before."