There has been a lot of hoopla about the prosecutorial discretion memos issued by ICE Secretary John Morton and the recent White House announcements on the same issue. A lot of immigrants, immigration attorneys and activists got riled up and we all started to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Not for long however.
I soon realized that the timing of this announcement was too perfect. The election season is barely starting for the president and he is badly hurting for the Hispanic vote.
Furthermore, thinking like a bureaucrat, this new memo has no chance of ever seeing the results it promises. Allow me to illustrate. Last week our local immigration attorneys had a liaison meeting with ICE officials from the Albuquerque Field Office. Present at the meeting were also the Chief Counsel and the Assistant Field Office Director for ICE El Paso. The resounding answer from parties involved was: business as usual. ICE officials at least in the El Paso/Albuquerque offices do not see any new guidance coming out of the memo. They simply consider it as a compilation of old memos. This means that fugitive operations will still do a sweep and come back with a van full of people when they only had one target and that stay-at-home moms or even DREAMers without any criminal record whatsoever will still be placed in removal proceedings.
I at least appreciate their honesty.
I really did not have much hope in anything changing. What the memo proposes is unworkable in the real world viewing the situation from the perspective of the government. Dan Kowalski did a superb job in his blog about this issue and hit the nail on the head. If there is no real incentive on ICE employees to apply this memo, nothing will change. By incentive I mean to get rid of numbers as the yardstick and instead engaging in smart enforcement where ICE employees are rewarded for successful application of priorities. In the words of an ICE official, "if you don't give me a peg to hang my hat on, I"m going to be doing the same thing as before." The administration has not given its employees a real peg to hang their hat on. I didn't expect one to come any time soon either. After all, the administration got the publicity it wanted so who cares about the rest. Now it's up to us to explain to the numerous clients asking us about the new "Obama law" that nothing will change and to watch out from unscrupulous characters who will undoubtedly do a lot of damage taking advantage of an already vulnerable population.