American visa authorities struggle with new discretionary powers

- Posted in America by Visa Bureauon 07 February 2012

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) senior adviser Andrew Lorenzen-Strait will become the first appointee in the newly created position which aims to ensure that any doubts from members of the public regarding policy changes can be answered.

"We have undertaken a significant number of reforms from a policy perspective and we want to make sure they are evenly understood in the public and advocacy communities" said ICE Director John Morton.

The post's necessity is due to a shift in policy from the US immigration authorities which aims to tackle the backlog of cases; approximately 300,000 illegal immigrants have pending deportation cases.

In attempt to handle this backlog, ICE officials were granted discretionary powers to prioritise cases and focus on those with criminal records and repeat offenders.

While the new powers were received warmly during a trial in Denver, Colorado in December 2011, some have voiced caution as illegal immigrants whose cases are indefinitely postponed can be left in an 'immigration limbo': neither deported or granted a US visa.

Despite the policy's successful trial, a federal appeals court has voiced their frustration at the lack of progress in implementing the policy nationwide.

The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit gave the US Attorney General until 19, March to let the court know which cases should be processed first. All five cases are allegedly strong cases to be postponed indefinitely in favour of more severe cases; the immigrants involved all have family ties to the US, included several American born children.

Two judges on the three-member panel have supported the request to the Attorney General although the third, Judge Diamuid O'Scannlain criticised his colleagues, calling the move 'audacious'.

ICE responded to the court informing them that they were working with the US Department of Justice to draft an appropriate response.


The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people with their ESTA visa application.