John Morton, executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE), issued a memo (.pdf) last Friday that provides ICE personnel “guidance on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to ensure that the agency’s immigration enforcement resources are focused on the agency’s enforcement priorities.”
The memo is one among several issued over the past 30 years by federal immigration authorities on how to exercise prosecutorial discretion. This latest memo explains that “the term ‘prosecutorial discretion’ applies to a broad range of discretionary enforcement decisions” that can include deferred action but also the execution of a deportation order. It offers guidelines on how to use discretion on a case-by-case basis and states that “decisions should be based on the totality of the circumstances, with the goal of conforming to ICE’s enforcement priorities.”
According to the Immigration Policy Center, there are factors that lead to the use or exercise of prosecutorial discretion in an immigration case, “with respect to investigations, arrests, detention, parole, the initiation of removal proceedings, continued litigation of removal proceedings, and even the execution of final removal orders. Examples of the favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the immigration context include a grant of deferred action; a decision to terminate removal proceedings; a stay of removal; or a decision not to issue a charging document in the first place.”
The Morton memo adds that “when weighing whether an exercise of prosecutorial discretion may be warranted for a given alien, ICE officers, agents, and attorneys should consider all relevant factors.”
The memo lists a series of factors that would allow ICE officials to use discretion:
- If the alien came to the United States as a young child.
- Whether someone has graduated from a U.S. high school or has successfully pursued or is pursuing a college or advanced degree.
- Whether the person, or an immediate relative of the person, has served in the U.S. military, Reserves or National Guard, with particular consideration given to those who served in combat.