One of the most hotly-debated topics regarding U.S. immigration policy is the use of “prosecutorial discretion,” the idea being that enforcement agencies are encouraged (and in some cases directed) to opt out of pressing charges against a defendant. In the case of illegal immigrants, prosecutorial discretion could potentially mean the prevention of deportation proceedings.
President Barack Obama announced on Friday that the idea of prosecutorial discretion will officially become a measure for the Department of Homeland Security. Though the new policy is not an official U.S. immigration law, the provision will take immediate effect and accomplish part of what the DREAM Act was looking to achieve. The policy applies to younger individuals who were brought into the country illegally, shielding them from deportation.
Prosecutorial discretion will apply to illegal immigrants who are under the age of 30 and who were brought into the country before the age of 16. The individual then must meet certain other requirements: they must have lived in the U.S. for five continuous years, graduated from a U.S. high school (or earned a GED) or served in the military.
In addition, as has been used in many test programs regarding prosecutorial discretion and immigration law, the individual must not have a criminal record.
This new policy will help young illegal immigrants stay in the U.S., allowing them the chance to apply the education they learned here with U.S.-based companies. It is also “the right thing to do,” Obama said, allowing the DHS to focus its resources elsewhere while promising young immigrants (who, at a young age, likely had no say in their illegal move into the country) are given the chance to help the country they are loyal to.
Source: Associated Press, “U.S. to stop deporting young illegal immigrants,” June 15, 2012