Lawmakers Trying to Influence New Deportation Policy

CQ reported that lawmakers from both parties are attempting to influence the Department of Homeland Security’s implementation of a new deportation policy. In letters sent Tuesday to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., a group of 69 House Democrats asked that agency guidance to field officers on the new policy explicitly state that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people be included in provisions protecting undocumented immigrants with family ties in the United States from deportation. On Monday,19 Senate Republicans sent a letter to President Obama asking the administration to rescind the new policy. With legislative attempts to overhaul «immigration» stalled in the split Congress, the letters are a recognition by members that the Obama administration is taking steps on its own to change the country’s policy on illegal immigrants. The administration deportation policy, issued in an Aug. 18 memo from Napolitano, states that the government will only seek to deport illegal immigrants convicted of serious offenses or who may pose a threat to public safety. Undocumented people who are otherwise law-abiding or who have families in the United States would not be targeted for deportation. Officials said the new policy stemmed from the agency’ limited resources. «Immigration» advocates saw it as a first step to granting legal status to some young people brought to the country illegally as children. Opponents decried it as “amnesty.” Advocates have now turned their attention to implementation of the policy, and the Democrats’ letter is an attempt to shape the scope of the new rules. Administration officials have said they would consider family ties of gay and lesbian undocumented immigrants in deportation cases, but the lawmakers want that assurance included in agency instructions to staffers. “All field staff implementing the new policies in all relevant DHS and [Justice Department] agencies must be made aware of this new consideration as they exercise discretion in deciding which new cases to place in removal proceedings and which current cases to close,” the letter said. “Without specific guidance, it is unlikely that agency officers, agents and attorneys making decisions about individual cases will be aware that LGBT family ties are a factor for consideration for exercising discretion in closing or not initiating removal proceedings.” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were the lead signatories. The Republicans, on the other hand, said in their letter to Obama that the new DHS rules “send the message that your administration is turning a blind eye to those who have broken our «immigration» laws.” The letter, spearheaded by Senate Judiciary ranking Republican Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, also expressed a fear that looser policies would create “a rush to the border and encourage the undocumented population to come forward in hopes of receiving a benefit.” Despite the new policy, the White House has beefed up its enforcement of «immigration laws. The administration deported almost 400,000 people in each of its first two years in office, more than any other. Officials also have increased the number of personnel along the border. That, in combination with the struggling economy, has caused both the number of illegal border crossings and the overall number of illegal immigrants in the country to drop, according to a recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center. A DHS official said the agency is still finalizing its process for reviewing deportation cases.

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