The Obama administration announced a new process in August 2011 to review deportations on a case-by-case basis. That way, immigration officials could focus their resources on higher priority targets — people who pose a threat to public safety or repeat immigration law violators — instead of low priority cases, like bi-national same-sex couples, children who were brought to America at a young age, pregnant women, and military veterans.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in August that the policy was first outlined in March 2010. And a senior administration official explained at the time that the process is designed to “keep folks who are low priority cases out of the deportation process to begin with.” But of the roughly 300,000 cases reviewed, only 4,400 deportations of undocumented immigrants had been halted so far. Stopping fewer than 2 percent of deportations is not good enough, one official told the New York Times:
“I do believe the administration has the right intention, prioritizing deportations,” Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a leading Democrat on immigration issues, said after seeing the low figures from the deportations review. “But these abysmal numbers raise serious questions about whether the Department of Homeland Security is making that vision a reality.”
Menendez suggested that immigrants who have close relatives in the U.S. should be included in the reviews, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said prosecutors should grant work permits to immigrants who stay in the U.S. until their deportation case is reviewed.
Under President Obama, roughly 400,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported each year. About 46,000 parents were deported in the first half of 2011, before officials began reviewing deportation case-by-case. But if only 4,400 deportations have been stopped under the review policy, then the administration should use it more widely, like for students who risk being deported.