On August 23rd Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) released an administration policy directive entitled "Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities." This memo serves to supplement as well as complement already existing memoranda relating to prosecutorial discretion and enforcement priorities. This memo in particular focuses on policies that affect alien parents, including placement, monitoring, accommodation, detention and removal. It states that "particular attention" should be given regarding any proposed action that involves 1) parents or legal guardians who are primary caretakers; 2) parents or legal guardians who have a direct interest in family court proceedings involving a minor or child welfare proceedings in the United States; and 3) parents or legal guardians whose minor children are U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Brandin Montgomery, a spokesperson for ICE, said that this memo "clarifies that ICE officers and agents may, on a case-by-case basis, utilize alternatives to detention for these individuals particularly when the detention of a non-criminal alien would result in a child being left without an appropriate parental caregiver."
On paper, this move should have pleased almost everyone. On one hand, it provides a humanitarian touch, protecting parent aliens from undue hardship. With this memo's clarification, most aliens can expect to be held closer to home, and their individual circumstances more likely to be considered, especially when young children are affected. ICE officers will now have to include information about the detainee's family within his or her case file, and an ICE officer will need to be appointed in each field office for the purpose of handling cases that involve parents of minor children. ICE field offices will further be required to make information publically available on how to contact Field Point of Contacts to handle inquiries.
However, as with much in life, it is impossible to please everyone. This memo does nothing to provide deportation relief. Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, found flaws in this action. "It is really only addressing the symptoms... The underlying problem, however -- the record number of detentions and deportations, and the number of parents and family that continue to get separated and ripped apart from each other -- is just unacceptable."
On the right, the GOP too found issue with these instructions. Bob Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Chair and a representative of Virginia, took aim at the Obama administration. He stated "President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws." According to Mr. Goodlatte, "This new directive from the Obama administration also poisons the debate surrounding immigration reform and shows that the administration is not serious about fixing our broken immigration system."
Thus it may seem like the administration is in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. The left has attacked the memo for not going far enough, while the right is incensed that it has gone too far. For many though, especially aliens who will benefit from it, this policy directive is certainly a meaningful step in the right direction. It expands and clarifies another important element of the prosecutorial discretion matrix that must be taken into consideration.