Termination of Removal Proceedings
On November 20, 2014, the Secretary of Homeland Security ("Secretary") announced several immigration policy initiatives affecting a number of DHS programs. Most notably, the Secretary announced revised civil immigration enforcement priorities DHS, emphasizing priorities on removing national security threats, convicted felons, gang members and aliens apprehended at the border or ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States. For more information on this, please see "Policies for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants," available at http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications.
According to the Secretary's memorandum, DHS personnel are expected to exercise discretion based on individual circumstances and pursue the priorities at all stages of the enforcement process. Simply put, through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") attorneys will determine which cases are enforcement priorities and which cases are not. The cases that are not enforcement priorities are then subject to requests for administrative closure or dismissal.
On April 6, 2015, ICE instructed its attorneys to exercise prosecutorial discretion as early in the case or proceedings as possible in order to preserve government resources. ICE attorneys have been directed to (1) review any requests for prosecutorial discretion prior to hearings, and (2) be prepared to respond whether they believe that the case is a removal priority or should be administratively closed or dismissed because the case is not a removal priority or appears eligible for some form of prosecutorial discretion.
On the same date, the Chief Immigration Judge of the U.S. Department of Justice, Brian M. O'Leary, issued a memorandum to all Immigration Judges and court staff that the Immigration Judges are encouraged to close cases that ICE has determined do not fit within the Secretary's enforcement priorities. The Chief Immigration Judge noted that because there are over 428,000 pending proceedings on the Immigration Court's dockets, the Court should apply its limited adjudication resources to resolve actual cases in dispute.
The Chief Immigration Judge's memorandum does not replace the application of case law and regulations to individual cases or the decisional independence of Immigration Judges. However, in light of the Secretary's memorandum, DHS will surely focus its resources on cases that meet the outlined priorities. Simultaneously, the Chief Immigration Judge's memorandum will encourage the Immigration Judges to administratively close or dismiss cases that do not fit within the Secretary's enforcement priorities in order to ensure respondents receive fair and timely adjudications.
Since the issuance of the Chief Immigration Judge's memorandum, the Angelova Law Firm has successfully terminated removal proceedings that do not fall within the Secretary's enforcement priorities. If you are a respondent in removal proceedings, consult an immigration lawyer immediately. Your case may be eligible for an administrative closure or dismissal.