The lead attorney for the Department of Homeland Security recently released a memo reiterating ICE’s enforcement priorities, specifically as it pertains to prosecutors. It also clarified what actions ICE lawyers can take when it comes to cases that aren’t enforcement priorities.
The memo officially reinstates the exercising of “prosecutorial discretion,” i.e. the ability for ICE lawyers to choose which cases they pursue and which they drop. Under Trump leadership, lawyers were compelled to pursue every case, regardless of priority. Now, ICE prosecutors are being told to determine for themselves which immigration cases can be dismissed or “administratively closed.”
All told, this change would help create a more efficient and humane immigration enforcement system. It would also allow prosecutors to focus on cases that actually present a threat to national security or public safety, which was the Obama policy the Trump administration reversed. At the same time, immigrant advocates say that much more needs to be done for the people who are currently in detention.
In the end, allowing prosecutors discretion over which cases they dismiss and which they pursue will not only improve the efficiency of the immigration system, but will help restore faith in the institutions charged with ensuring fairness and accessibility.
Now, all that is left is to fight for Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 to ensure as many immigrants as possible are guaranteed a path to citizenship.
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