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WASHINGTON— Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, applauded the recent announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that prosecutorial discretion would be exercised on “low-priority” deportation cases.
“We urge your expeditious implementation of this proposal, as vulnerable immigrants who are ‘low-priority’ remain at imminent risk of deportation,” Archbishop Gomez said in a September 29 letter to Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Archbishop Gomez laid out, from the perspective of the U.S. bishops, those categories of immigrants who should receive stays of deportation and qualify for work authorization, as outlined in the DHS announcement. These groups include members of families, as currently defined under federal immigration law; children and individuals who were brought to the United States at a young age and who would benefit from the DREAM Act; other vulnerable immigrants and those who had lived in the United States for years and built equities in their communities. He also asked for protection for “clergy and religious” who serve in faith communities across the nation.
Additionally, the letter requested that the new policy apply to all enforcement branches of DHS, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).It has been reported that since the announcement young persons and family members continue to be detained and placed in deportation proceedings.
“The decision embodies the kind of common-sense, compassionate immigration policies that can serve to simultaneously enforce federal immigration law while respecting the dignity and vulnerabilities of the migrants in our midst,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We urge you to implement this policy expeditiously and in concert with [our] priority recommendations.”
Full text of letter follows.
September 29, 2011
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, I write to applaud the Administration’s recent decision to take meaningful steps to operationalize its stated policy of directing immigration enforcement personnel, resources, and action on criminal and other high-priority immigrants for removal.
The U.S. Catholic bishops welcomed your August 18, 2011, announcement that the Administration will establish a new, two-pronged process to ensure that its immigration enforcement resources are focused on what the Administration has, in recent memoranda, identified as “high priority” individuals for removal.We urge your expeditious implementation of this proposal, as vulnerable immigrants who are “low-priority” remain at imminent risk of deportation.
We are encouraged by the purpose and intent of the newly-formed interagency working group that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established together with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the nearly 300,000 cases presently pending in the removal pipeline.By doing so, the working group will be able to identify those cases that merit the exercise of prosecutorial discretion and remove them from an over-burdened immigration court docket, re-directing scarce resources to those whose removal should be prioritized – serious criminals and those who present a danger to our communities.
The U.S. Catholic bishops are similarly encouraged by the announcement that in the near-term, DHS will issue formal guidance to each of its immigration-related component agencies – including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – to ensure that the Administration’s prosecutorial discretion policy is exercised by all of those working to enforce federal immigration law within DHS.
It is our understanding that this new process builds on the Administration’s immigration enforcement prioritization of the removal of individuals who have been convicted of crimes in the United States – a prioritization that was most recently articulated in ICE Director John Morton’s June 17, 2011 memorandum which was issued solely to ICE personnel.In the June 17, 2011, Memorandum, Director Morton clarified that the Administration’s policy of prosecutorial discretion applies to a “broad range of discretionary enforcement decisions” from deciding to issue or cancel a notice of detainer, deciding to issue, reissue, serve, file or cancel a Notice to Appear (NTA), deciding who to stop, question or arrest for an administrative immigration violation, and settling or dismissing a proceeding, among numerous other scenarios.
We understand that the newly-formed working group’s criteria for case review will be based on those criteria outlined in the June 17, 2011 Morton Memo, which include, but are not limited to:the circumstances of a person’s arrival in the United States and the manner of his or her entry, particularly if he/she came as a young child; length of presence in the United States; ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships; age of the individual; women who are pregnant or nursing; individuals suffering from severe mental or physical illness; service in the U.S. military; pursuit of post-secondary education in the United States; and various others.
The U.S. Catholic bishops ask that as you further develop the criteria to review the approximately 300,000 cases in the removal pipeline, and as you consider individuals prospectively for an exercise of prosecutorial discretion who are not yet in the removal pipeline, that you prioritize:(1) families, as defined under current federal immigration law; (2) vulnerable populations, including the mentally and physically disabled and victims of crimes; (3) children and individuals who were brought to the United States as minors, through no fault of their own; (4) pregnant and nursing women;(5) those with long-term presence in the United States and other equities, such as U.S. citizen children or spouses and contributions to their communities through their work, faith communities, among other means, and 6) clergy and religious who serve in faith communities.
We also ask that you work to ensure the uniform application of the Administration’s prosecutorial discretion policy by all component agencies of DHS not only for those in the current removal pipeline, but also for those who merit such discretion well before they have entered that “pipeline” – such as at the time of apprehension.
Again, the U.S. Catholic bishops applaud the Administration’s August 18, 2011, announcement regarding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.We urge you to implement this policy expeditiously and in concert with the above priority recommendations.
The decision embodies the kind of common-sense, compassionate immigration policies that can serve to simultaneously enforce federal immigration law while respecting the dignity and vulnerabilities of the migrants in our midst.
Thank you for your consideration of our views.
Keywords: immigration, enforcement, deportations, Homeland Security, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, Janet Napolitano, Migration and Refugee Services, MRS, USCCB
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