Common Sense prevails in the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law providing hope for many people.

Late last year, DHS Secretary Mayorkas issued a memorandum providing guidelines for the enforcement of civil immigration law. The memo in part stated: 

“It is estimated that there are more than 11 million undocumented or otherwise removable noncitizens in the United States. We do not have the resources to apprehend and seek the removal of every one of these noncitizens. Therefore, we need to exercise our discretion and determine whom to prioritize for immigration enforcement action. 

In exercising our discretion, we are guided by the fact that the majority of undocumented noncitizens who could be subject to removal have been contributing members of our communities for years. They include individuals who work on the frontlines in the battle against COVID, lead our congregations of faith, teach our children, do back-breaking farm work to help deliver food to our table, and contribute in many other meaningful ways. Numerous times over the years, and presently, bipartisan groups of leaders have recognized these noncitizens’ contributions to state and local communities and have tried to pass legislation that would provide a path to citizenship or other lawful status for the approximately 11 million undocumented noncitizens. 

The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them. We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country’s well-being require it. 

By exercising our discretionary authority in a targeted way, we can focus our efforts on those who pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security and thus threaten America’s well-being. We do not lessen our commitment to enforce immigration law to the best of our ability. This is how we use the resources we have in a way that accomplishes our enforcement mission most effectively and justly”  

In summary, this memo says – we have limited resources and most of the undocumented people are good, law-abiding people so let us go after the bad guys, get the others out of our court system and allow them to pursue permanent residence if they are otherwise eligible. 

As an immigration attorney, I have been anxiously waiting to see how this was going to work so I am delighted to tell you about the policy guidance issued on April 1st. This guidance dealt specifically with people who have TPS (temporary protected status), traveled out of the US, and returned with the permission of immigration (advance parole) but have an order of removal or deportation. This guidance does not provide a pathway to permanent status for everyone but for those who have a U.S. citizen petitioner (usually a spouse who is a US citizen or an adult child), it will be a welcome relief for years (sometimes decades) of uncertainty and worry.

This April 1st guidance said that those to whom this applied can ask the ICE office of the Principal Legal Advisor to join them in a Joint Motion to reopen their removal/deportation case to terminate the removal/deportation order. After receiving the termination order they can then apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence. If the adjustment of status has been previously denied because of the removal/deportation order, they can either file a new application for adjustment to permanent residence or move to reopen the denied application. 

All of this may seem highly technical (and it is) but it is wonderful news that so many people can now stop looking over their shoulders and finally obtain legal status in the US. Many US citizen children can now stop worrying about whether they will be separated from their undocumented parents. And many US citizens married to undocumented persons can also stop worrying about their families being torn apart by immigration proceedings. 

Linda M Kaplan
Latest posts by Linda M Kaplan (see all)