In a sweeping change, federal immigration enforcement is shifting toward faster deportations of convicted criminals and fewer deportations of many illegal immigrants with no criminal record, reports the New York Times. The Department of Homeland Security is beginning a review of all deportation cases before the immigration courts and will start a nationwide training program for enforcement agents and prosecuting lawyers,
The accelerated triage of the court docket — about 300,000 cases — is intended to allow severely overburdened immigration judges to focus on deporting foreigners who committed serious crimes or pose national security risks, Homeland Security officials said. It is part of a policy announced in June to encourage immigration agents to use prosecutorial discretion when deciding whether to pursue a deportation. The policy would scale back deportations of illegal immigrants who were young students, military service members, elderly people or close family of American citizens, among others. While the announcement raised expectations in immigrant communities, until now the policy has been applied spottily.