While a seven-month-long review of the backlog of illegal immigrant cases slows to a crawl, deportations to the Caribbean, among other places, have continued virtually unabated, US immigration officials have confirmed.
Fewer than two per cent of deportation cases have been closed in a review of more than 411,000 deportation cases, the US Department of Homeland Security officials have admitted.
The Barack Obama administration had ordered the review in order to alleviate the negative effects of increased deportations on the Caribbean and other communities. Over 1.1 million immigrants have been deported in the last three years, officials said.
The officials blamed bureaucratic delays of criminal background checks of the immigrants for the slow pace of review but said that thousands more deportations could be suspended in the coming months.
They said, to date, 4,403 deportation cases have been closed, and that about 20,600 immigrants facing deportation were eligible to have their cases closed, or about nine per cent.
“This is a massive undertaking,” said a Department of Homeland Security official. “At the end of the day, we are going to say to more than 20,000 people, ‘We will not deport you.’ That is a very significant thing.”
Immigrant advocates and lawyers were optimistic when last June, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), announced it was shifting its deportation strategy to focus deportations on criminals and spare illegal immigrants with clean records. Officials said the review would reduce the backlog and target judges’ efforts at deporting dangerous offenders.
But campaigners said many immigrants believed they had strong arguments to present to judges, and they were not encouraged by the prospect of staying in the US without being able to work legally or obtain a driver’s license and other documents.
So far, Homeland Security officials said 3,998 immigrants – about half those who received an offer of prosecutorial discretion – have declined prosecutors’ offers. (CMC)