As a Senate subcommittee gets ready for a hearing today on the DREAM Act, the Federation for American Immigration Reform is claiming that a memo issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE) Director John Morton 10 days ago is an attempt to grant “amnesty” to DREAM Act-eligible students.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform — which supports Arizona-style immigration-enforcement laws — says the Morton memo authorizes all ICE field office directors, special agents in charge, and all chief counsels “to decline to remove illegal aliens who meet the qualifications for amnesty under the DREAM Act.”

It then adds that Morton couches this administrative amnesty as “guidance on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to ensure that the agency’s immigration enforcement resources are focused on the agency’s enforcement priorities.”

Adey Fisseha, policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, writes to The Florida Independent: “The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for young people who came to the US as minors, have lived here at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, have good moral character and who has generally stayed out of trouble if they complete two years of years education or military service.”

Fisseha adds that “nothing in the [Morton] memo would give DREAM eligible youth (or anyone else) a path to any kind of permanent status (much less a path to citizenship).”

The Morton memo defines prosecutorial discretion as “the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual. ICE, like any other law enforcement agency, has prosecutorial discretion and may exercise “it in the ordinary course of enforcement.”

The memo also states (.pdf) that individuals who pose a clear risk to national security, serious felons, repeat offenders, anyone with a lengthy criminal record, known gang members, and individuals with an egregious record of immigration violations (including those with a record of illegal reentry and those who have engaged in immigration fraud) should also prompt particular consideration by ICE officers, agents, and attorneys when exercising prosecutorial discretion.

William Flynn, head of immigration practice at Fowler White Boggs, responded in an email to the Independent that Morton issued a policy memo, not an executive order issuing the DREAM Act.

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