The immigration court has suspended its cases in Orlando, as well as Seattle, New Orleans, and Detroit, as part of a pilot program to attempt to identify immigrants who pose a public safety risk and national security risk. This means that those immigrants in removal proceedings who ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) determines does not pose a public safety or national security risk could have their cases administratively closed.
The administrative closure of cases may or may not be beneficial to many immigrants. For example, an immigrant who currently has no legal status and is in removal proceedings may be eligible for a form of relief which may in turn lead to a lawful status. However, if ICE administratively closes the case, the immigrant will remain without lawful status, which would mean that the immigrant is not eligible for a driver’s license and other benefits.
For others, who are here in lawful status, but have been placed in removal proceedings based on a violation of immigration law relating to that status (for example, a criminal conviction, abandonment of lawful permanent residency, etc.), administrative closure would allow the immigrant to maintain their lawful permanent resident status.
Prosecutorial discretion in immigration is not a new concept, but it is one that has become a focal point of immigration law in the last year. With directives coming from the highest levels at ICE and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to review pending removal cases and to redirect governmental resources to those immigrants who pose a security risk to the public or the nation, it remains to be seen whether the soldiers on the ground will fully implement the orders of their bosses.