A few weeks ago, John Morton, head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency , authored an internal memorandum (that quickly became external) spelling out new procedures to dismiss thousands of deportation and removal cases against people facing deportation. The rationale was simple. ICE wanted to focus on “serious criminals” and not on the majority of undocumented immigrants who have no criminal history and who have contributed to their communities. For a short while, this new policy seemed to be applied system-wide. For instance, in the Miami Immigration Court, the ICE trial attorneys were busy identifying cases for the Miami Immigration Judges to administratively close. ICE is a large agency with many individual field offices. With an agency as large as ICE, we see inconsistent policy implementation from the various field offices around the country. This time though, it looked as though there was a uniform interpretation of the John Morton memorandum.
Only a few short weeks after the memorandum surfaced in the media, however, things dramatically changed. In the Miami Office of the Chief Counsel, it is back to business as usual and there is no indication that the John Morton memorandum is in full force in Miami. I confirmed this with several Miami Immigration Judges , who were surprised to hear that cases are still being closed in other parts of the country. For instance, in Texas, removal proceedings are being administratively closed as outlined in the Morton memorandum. Read the story here.
It is unclear why the John Morton directive is now being implemented in this disparate manner or whether the Obama Administration even knows that some field offices, like the Miami Office of the Chief Counsel, have decided to ignore Morton’s directive. More to come on this topic.