Recent DHS Memos on Prosecutorial Discretion

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a few memos in recent months on the topic of “Prosecutorial Discretion.”  Some confusion may exist in your communities about what these memos mean.

On June 17, 2011, John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is a part of DHS, issued a memo in which he provided guidance to ICE officials about how to exercise Prosecutorial Discretion.

But first, what exactly is “Prosecutorial Discretion”?  As John Morton writes in his June 17 memo, “prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide to what degree to enforce the law against a particular individual.”  Basically, Prosecutorial Discretion is the choice that DHS officials have in each individual case to make a decision that will result in a better result for an immigrant.

For example, an ICE official might decide to not arrest a non-citizen who appears to be in the United States without permission.  An ICE attorney might decide to not put a non-citizen into Removal Proceedings in Immigration Court.  DHS might decide not to deport an individual who is subject to a final order of removal from the United States.

It is important to understand that the recent memos are NOT offering an amnesty program.  They do NOT provide an automatic path for a person to obtain a green card or employment authorization.  It is also important to understand that there might be some dishonest people in your communities who offer to get you a green card or an employment authorization card for a substantial cost.  Beware of people offering you green cards or employment cards as a result of the recent memos.  They may be trying to take your money and trick you.  The recent memos do NOT offer any kind of program that you can sign up for.

On August 18, 2011, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of DHS, issued a letter stating that government officials will review the cases of the approximately 300,000 people who are in removal proceedings in Immigration Courts across the country.  Secretary Napolitano stated that the officials will identify certain cases that might be appropriate for Prosecutorial Discretion.

If you have questions about the legal effects of the recent memos on Prosecutorial Discretion, or about any legal aspects of your immigration case, you should contact a qualified immigration lawyer.  You should NOT seek legal advice from a notario or an immigration consultant.

For more information, please view the following documents:

June 17, 2011 memo regarding Prosecutorial Discretion from John Morton, Director, ICE (English)

August 18, 2011 letter from Janet Napolitano, Secretary, DHS (English)

August 20, 2011 Consumer Advisory from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) (English and Spanish)

U.S. launches new program against immigration fraud

The New York Times reports that the U.S. government has begun a new campaign to protect immigrants from people posing as immigration lawyers.

Often referred to as “notarios” by members of the Latino community, people engaged in the unauthorized practice of law – posing as lawyers and submitting applications to immigration officials on behalf of their immigrant victims – often cause irreparable damage to their victims, often causing immigrants to be deported because of their unlawful actions.

Please click here to read the article from the New York Times.

Call for Obama to improve the immigration system

The New York Times has called for President Obama to use his powers as President to fix some of the most pressing problems in the immigration system.  Among the issues that President Obama could address are the following:

  • End the “Secure Communities” program, which many law enforcement officials have criticized.  The program was aimed at removing dangerous criminals from the United States, but appears to be used instead to remove many who have clean records.
  • Grant relief from deportation for those individuals who would qualify under the DREAM Act.
  • Allow immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens to become lawful permanent residents without having to leave the United States.

Please click here to read the New York Times editorial.

California moves to opt out of “Secure Communities” program

The Los Angeles Times reports that California officials are taking steps to possibly opt out of the U.S. government’s “Secure Communities” program, a controversial scheme whose stated purpose is to remove dangerous criminal aliens from the United States, but which has been criticized heavily for deporting many aliens who have clean criminal records.

Please click here to read the article.

Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence

Some Lawful Permanent Residents encounter problems with U.S. immigration officials at the border or at the airport when returning to the United States after a trip abroad. Perhaps you took a long trip outside the United States – perhaps one year or more. Or maybe you have spent the majority of your time outside the United States over the past several years.

Under the “Resources” section of our website, we have some brief documents that outline various aspects of Immigration Law.

Proving U.S. Citizenship

Some people are actually U.S. Citizens, but don’t realize it.

If you were born outside the United States, you might be a U.S. Citizen if one or both of your parents is or was a U.S. Citizen.  The question of whether or not you are a U.S. Citizen is determined by the U.S. laws that were in effect on the day of your birth.

Under the “Resources” section of our website, we have some brief documents that outline various aspects of Immigration Law.

Cancellation of Removal

If you are required to appear in Immigration Court, there are several options that might be available to you, depending on your specific situation.  One option for some people is a form of relief called “Cancellation of Removal.”

Under the “Resources” section of our website, we have some brief documents that outline various aspects of Immigration Law.

We have provided some basic information about cancellation of removal.  Please take a look.


You might be eligible to apply for asylum if:

1. You have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in your country by government agents, or by people whom the government cannot or will not control,


2. The persecution is based on one or more of the following reasons:  Race, Religion, Nationality, Political opinion, or Membership in a particular social group.

Under the “Resources” section of our website, we have some brief documents that outline various aspects of Immigration Law.

We have provided some basic information about asylum.  Please take a look.

Consular Processing: Applying for permanent residence from outside the United States

For some people who wish to become permanent residents of the United States, their best option is to do “consular processing” – attending an interview at a U.S. Consulate in another country.  For example, if you live outside the United States, or if you are not eligible to apply for permanent residence from inside the United States, you might be eligible for consular processing at a U.S. Consulate – most likely the consulate in your own country.

Under the “Resources” section of our website, we have some brief documents that outline various aspects of Immigration Law.