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The Obama administration has used prosecutorial discretion, or the decision to use limited resources to enforce some cases over others, to grant some undocumented immigrants a reprieve, while continuing a high level of deportations more broadly.
House Republicans said passing the bill was necessary because the president had shown an unwillingness to enforce the law and a desire to go around Congress, including through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
“We have seen a pattern: President Obama circumvents Congress when he doesn’t get his way,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said on the House floor in support of the bill. “But the Constitution does not confer upon the president the executive authority to disregard the separation of powers and rewrite acts of Congress based on his policy preferences.”
The Obama administration threatened to veto both bills should they come to the president’s desk, and White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized them during a press briefing, noting the contrast between the legislation and some Republicans’ stated desires to work on immigration reform.
“It is, in my view, in our view, pretty amazing that today House Republicans went in the opposite direction by passing legislation targeting the deferred action for childhood arrivals policy that removed the threat of deportation for young people brought to this country as children, known as Dreamers,” he said, adding later, “It doesn’t require much to look at what House Republicans are doing today and question whether or not they’re serious about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform.”
“Instead of voting to fix our broken immigration system as the Senate did in June, House Republicans today voted to prevent the President from fixing the problems that are within his constitutional authority to solve,” Reid said. “These irresponsible Republican bills are dead on arrival in the Senate. I strongly support the President’s decision to protect DREAMers from deportation. Republicans should try solving problems for a change instead of blocking progress for our nation and making life more difficult for the immigrant community.”
Obama Administration Announces a Relaxations of Some Restrictions on Asylees Found to Have Aided Terrorist Organizations
The new exemptions apply to “limited material support,” which a DHS spokeswoman said is defined as “material support that was insignificant in amount or provided incidentally in the course of everyday social, commercial, family or humanitarian interactions, or under significant pressure.”
DHS provided a series of examples of individuals who would have been ineligible for asylum or refugee status before the new exemptions, including business owners who unwittingly provided service to members of a terror group, aid workers who assisted members of a terror group during the aftermath of a natural disaster or civil conflict and people who had to pay a toll or tax to a terror group to pass through opposition-occupied territory.
“For instance, an owner of a restaurant who serves food to any paying customer, even though he knows some of them are members of an opposition group; or a mother or father who — as any parent would — fed and clothed their young adult child, even when they knew their child is part of a resistance movement,” the DHS spokeswoman said.
Aside from the Federal Register publication, the only public notice announcing the changes came from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has for years been championing a change in the “material support” definition.
“The existing interpretation was so broad as to be unworkable. It resulted in deserving refugees and asylees being barred from the United States for actions so tangential and minimal that no rational person would consider them supporters of terrorist activities,” Leahy said. “These changes help return our nation to its historic role as a welcoming sanctuary to the world’s most vulnerable populations.”
U.S. Government Tells Federal Judge They Cannot Produce the Names and Identities of All Immigration Detainees Held for More Than 6 Months
The ACLU eventually filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in Manhattan federal court in 2011 seeking documents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The ACLU questioned the practice of “prolonged immigration detention — for months, if not years — without adequate procedures in place to determine whether their detention is justified.” It cited a dramatic increase in the number of immigration detainees in recent decades, noting they weren’t serving criminal sentences but were being detained by the thousands to ensure they’re available for removal from the country if removal is ordered and appeals are exhausted.
The judge said the government’s continued refusal to produce documents had stymied efforts to reform a system in which thousands of immigrant detainees, some applicants for asylum, languish in immigration jails longer than six months.
He also attacked as “painstaking and riddled with further delay” the government’s process for releasing documents, saying the government hasn’t produced any documents since his Sept. 9 order to release documents and had at times claimed it would take seven years to produce 100 files.
The government, though, said in its letter it is “not feasible” to produce documents from more than 22,000 individual files as ordered but said it can produce a reliable sample of 385 files within 15 months, with rolling releases within eight weeks of a revised order.
In 2009, The Associated Press conducted a computer analysis of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement database obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, finding there were 32,000 immigrants from 177 countries detained, including more than 18,000 with no criminal convictions.
The analysis showed that nearly 10,000 had been in custody more than a month, that 400 of those with no criminal records had been locked up more than a year, that a dozen had been held for three years or more and that one man from China had been incarcerated more than five years. Many of the longest-term non-criminal detainees were asylum seekers.
The analysis was referenced in the ACLU lawsuit.
According to a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, immigrants are supposed to be deported or released within about six months. The steady increase in the number of immigrants held behind bars grew considerably after Congress passed a pair of laws in 1996 requiring immigrants who committed crimes be locked up for deportation. The numbers continued to rise after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and amid anti-immigrant political rhetoric.
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