The Obama administration issued a new policy Friday that says immigration agents should try not to arrest and deport illegal immigrant parents of minor children. The move adds to the categories of people the administration is trying not to deport.
In a nine-page memo, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said agents should use “prosecutorial discretion” to try to avoid detaining parents and, if parents are detained, agents should make sure they have the ability to visit with their children or participate in family court proceedings.
The move won praise from immigrant-rights groups who said it’s a step toward a less harsh detention policy. But a top Republican blasted the memo as another effort by the Obama administration to circumvent the law.
“President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican.
Mr. Goodlatte, whose committee is in charge of many of the immigration bills the House could consider later this year and who is working on a legalization bill for young illegal immigrants, said the Obama administration move “poisons the debate” and shows the president is trying to “politicize the issue” rather than work for a compromise bill.
The memo is the latest in a series of directives issued by ICE and by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that try to lay out priorities for who the government will detain and try to deport.
Ms. Napolitano says her department is only funded to deport about 400,000 immigrants a year, out of a total population of about 11 million. She said it makes sense to focus those deportation efforts on immigrants with serious criminal records or who have repeatedly violated immigration laws.
A year ago, she issued a policy granting tentative legal status to young illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, who call themselves Dreamers. That policy began accepting applications in August 2012 and as of the end of this July had approved legal status for more than 430,000 illegal immigrants.
The new memo instructs ICE agents to give special consideration when they encounter an illegal immigrant who is a parent or legal guardian of a child.
“FODs shall continue to weigh whether an exercise of prosecutorial discretion may be warranted for a given alien and shall consider all relevant factors in this determination, including whether the alien is a parent or legal guardian of a USC or LPR minor, or is a primary caretaker of a minor,” said the new memo, known as the “Family Interest Directive.” FODs are field operations directors, LPRs are legal permanent residents and USCs are U.S. citizens.
Read more: The Washington Times