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An ongoing review of pending deportations has resulted in the suspension of 7.5 percent of the planned expulsions, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
The evaluation is aimed at clearing a large backlog of court cases and at focusing enforcement efforts on the deportation of criminals, ICE Deputy Press Secretary Gillian Christensen said.
“This review is designed to allow the agency to make the best use of its limited resources,” she said in a statement, adding that ICE will continue to apply discretion in other cases before the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Figures provided by ICE show roughly 2,700 deportation cases have been shelved, while the rest of the more than 16,500 deportations that meet the criteria for suspension remain subject to completion of necessary paperwork and background checks.
ICE said the remaining 300,000 cases before EOIR are being evaluated by government attorneys in line with the agency’s current guidelines, which prioritize the deportation of convicted criminals, immigration fugitives, repeat violators of immigration law and recent illegal border-crossers.
So far, ICE has reviewed the cases of 179,518 people who are not in custody, determining that 16,518 of them, or 9 percent, are eligible to have their deportations suspended.
Only 26 of the 40,036 detained immigrants whose files were reviewed qualified for suspension.
The 2,722 shelved deportation cases involve former and current military personnel, as well as 175 children and 180 college students who entered the United States before the age of 16.
Also among the beneficiaries were 100 people suffering from serious health conditions and 60 victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.
The suspension of deportation does not automatically translate into a work permit, a situation that has prompted some immigration lawyers to suggest migrants might be better off going to immigration court and seeking asylum.
President Barack Obama’s administration has deported a record number of more than 1 million undocumented immigrants since taking office in January 2009.
After complaints from immigrants rights activists about the effects of the massive expulsions, the administration announced last August that ICE would embark on a review of pending deportations.