One year after ICE Director John Morton's memo on "low-priority" cases, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement has published their findings on the Morton Memo, prosecutorial discretion, and the impact on immigrant families.Sunday, June 17 marks the one year anniversary of the release of a memo from ICE Director John Morton
that lead to the announcement of prosecutorial discretion
to clear non-criminal deportation cases, deemed "low-priority", from the courts. This announcement was received as a positive step forward to provide much-needed relief to undocumented immigrants. One year later, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement has published their findings on the Morton Memo and what has followed in Restore the Promise of Prosecutorial Discretion: An Assessment of DHS' Prosecutorial Discretion Initiative and its Impact on Families on the Anniversary of its Announcement. The full report is available for download [PDF].
FIRM's comprehensive report covers major findings on the process of review for non-criminal cases, the impact of lack of lack of adequate legal support for those eligible for discretion, the numbers coming out of the process, and recommendations to address the failures of implementation. "DHS' prosecutorial discretion policy as announced one year ago brought with it the promise that immigrants and their families would have the opportunity to obtain relief from deportation. The program's implementation to date has dashed such hopes, to the detriment of immigrant families and the credibility of the Obama Administration."
The report also highlights several cases of individuals who met the criteria for prosecutorial discretion but have not been granted relief:
The Case of Cayla Roberts of Grand Haven, Michigan: After Cayla Roberts' mother died when she was only 14 years old, her own biological father sold her to human trafficking smugglers who brought her from China to the United States. She was soon arrested, and spent 10 months in detention. She was then fortunate enough to be placed with a foster family in Michigan, who have raised her since as their own daughter. Cayla, now 24, has been a straight-A student throughout high school and college in Michigan.
She is now married to her high school sweetheart, Seth Roberts, a United States Air Force veteran. Inexplicably, Cayla was denied special immigrant juvenile status and later she was denied asylum. Now, in a clear violation of the spirit of the administration's stated policies, ICE is refusing to invoke prosecutorial discretion in her case. Cayla's story is one example of thousands and thousands across the country which exemplify why advocates consider the prosecutorial discretion policy, as implemented by DHS and ICE a failure.
The Case of Marvin Corado of Florida: Marvin came to this country from Guatemala 12 years ago when he was still only a teenager. Marvin's life now revolves around his 5-year old daughter Madelyn, a U.S. Citizen. Marvin and his wife, Leslie, have been married since 2009 and are active members of their church. In October 2011, Marvin was stopped by a police officer and detained because he didn’t have a driver's license because it is illegal for him to obtain one. Marvin has now been in detention for 7 months; his daughter and wife are suffering emotionally and financially without Marvin at home with them. With two U.S. Citizen sisters as well as his daughter, his strong ties to his community, and many years here, Marvin is also a clear example of the kind of person and family for whom the prosecutorial discretion policy was supposed to provide relief. But ICE continues to keep him from his family and try to deport him.
The individual stories of Cayla, Marvin, and too many others create a disturbing picture of what the first year of the Morton Memo has done for immigrant families: DHS is still tearing families apart in record numbers, despite its stated focus on "high-priority" cases. Almost 300,000 cases have been reviewed under the prosecutorial discretion process -- and fewer than 5,000 cases have actually been administratively closed. For an initiative that was expected to help potentially millions of individuals who fit the "low-priority" criteria, including DREAMers, the stories and the statistics show a resounding failure of the DHS to implement the policy and grant meaningful relief for immigrant communities.
"The prosecutorial discretion policy was received with a great sense of hope," said Angelica Salas of CHIRLA in the New York Times
. "We thought this was a way we can keep our families together. But at this point it feels like one more failed attempt at relief."
It is critical that we take this one-year anniversary to make sure that the stories of individuals being denied relief be lifted up. If you are interested in writing a guest blog on your story or the story of a family member, please email us at