A policy change on deportation is being weighed by U.S Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (pictured). The policy would protect tens of thousands of immigrants who are living in the United States illegally but don’t have serious criminal records, according to Associated Press.
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If adopted, the change — following a review ordered by President Barack Obama — could limit the removal of people who have little-or-no criminal record but have committed repeat immigration violations, such as re-entering the country illegally after having been deported or failing to comply with a deportation order.
Earlier on in the week, the New York Times reported that the number of court-ordered deportations of illegal immigrants in the United States had fallen 43 percent since 2009.
Figures confirmed by the Justice Department, which oversee the federal government’s immigration court system, show the Obama administration opened 26 percent fewer deportation cases in the courts last year than in 2009.
The numbers highlight the administration’s shift toward greater discretion among prosecutors on the people they seek to deport. The Times said prosecutors have increasingly offered to suspend cases of immigrants with no criminal records who had families in the United States.
The number of suspended cases rose more than 400 percent between 2011 and 2013.
Meanwhile, President Obama has come under increasing pressure from immigration advocates who have accused him of moving too slowly on reforming the nation’s immigration system. On his watch, deportations have reached 2 million.
A comprehensive immigration reform bill that would improve border security and offer a path to citizenship for the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants was approved by the Democratic-led U.S. Senate last year, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to take up the issue.