New Obama Directive to Aid Parents in Deportation Proceedings

silhouette-1174492-m.jpgThe Obama administration released a directive last Friday, instructing federal immigration officers to be cognizant of family connections and needs when detaining undocumented foreign nationals who have children. The directive does not prevent the deportations of these foreign national parents, but it does facilitate the detainees' abilities to make decisions regarding the care of their children.

While the document does not prevent the deportation of undocumented parents or high-priority criminal immigrants, it does allow detained individuals to make caregiver decisions for their children. Importantly, the directive also advises immigration officials to find out if the detainee is a parent and, if so, to exercise prosecutorial discretion (PD) if appropriate. In the event that PD is appropriate, the directive instructs immigration agents to exercise it as soon as possible.

Moreover, the directive also creates a "field point of contact" that allows for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to facilitate communications between parent detainees and their family members. Additionally, once officials learn that detainees are parents, they are encouraged to house the detainees in facilities that are as geographically close to their children as possible.

The Obama directive is very similar to a provision that was included in the immigration reform bill that the U.S. Senate passed in May 2013. Specifically, that provision creates mechanisms by which detained parents could authorize caretaker options for their children while in detention.

Republican lawmakers are displeased with the new directive, stating that the Obama administration is doing more harm than good to the efforts for immigration reform by refusing to enforce the current immigration laws. Specifically, Virginia Republican Congressmen and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte stated that the House of Representatives is working hard to finalize immigration reform across party lines, and that the President is undermining these efforts through measures like his directive.

Democratic lawmakers have widely praised the directive but many are still skeptical as to whether it will actually result in fewer deportations of foreign national parents. This skepticism is a result of the 2011 Obama directive that suggested to immigration officers that they prioritize detainees who pose criminal or terrorist threats to the United States and its citizens - thereby shifting the deportation focus from low-priority unauthorized immigrants to dangerous unauthorized immigrants. However, even in light of that directive, the Obama administration continued to deport thousands of low-priority unauthorized immigrants (immigrants whose only crime was being in the country without authorization). In fact, between 2010 and 2012, approximately 205,000 foreign nationals parents of U.S. citizen children were deported - a figure that represents more deportations than under any other president.

Importantly, in addition to helping the foreign national parents in immigration detention, the Obama directive will hopefully also assist the thousands of undocumented foreign national children who are held in adult detention facilities.

From 2008 to 2012, more than 1,300 undocumented foreign national children (under 18) have been held in adult immigration detention centers for as long as one year. Some of these children were even sent to prison while they waited transfer to the detention center. The majority of these children were waiting for a decision on their parents' immigration cases when they were found and detained by immigration officials.

At the Gee Law Firm, our attorneys are available to counsel U.S. citizens and permanent residents on what their rights are when their undocumented family members are detained by immigration officials. Contact our office today at 650-293-0270 to speak to a member of our legal team about your circumstances.

Additional Blog Posts

USCIS Announces Provisional I-601 Waiver, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 16, 2013
Rare Chance for Spouses of Green Card Holders to Apply for Green Card Without Waiting in a Queue, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, July 18, 2013

Immigration Reform / by Michelle Gee