Senate Judiciary Testimony on Immigration Enforcement Priorities and Use of Prosecutorial Discretion

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Testimony of Marc R. Rosenblum, Deputy Director, U.S. Immigration Program, before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the December 2, 2015 hearing, “Oversight of the Administration’s Criminal Alien Removal Policies.”

“Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Leahy, and Members of the Committee:

Good afternoon. My name is Marc Rosenblum, and I am deputy director of the U.S. immigration program at the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, DC that analyzes U.S. and international migration trends and policies. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

The U.S. unauthorized population numbered about 11 million people in 2013, down from 12.2 million in 2007. The large number of unauthorized immigrants results from five decades of substantial unauthorized flows, beginning when the US-Mexico Bracero program ended in 1964 and Congress substantially revised the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965. Since the mid-1980s, the United States has implemented a series of increasingly forceful measures to combat illegal immigration, mostly by tightening border security, but also through a number of programs to identify, detain, and deport unauthorized immigrants from within the United States (i.e., through “interior enforcement”).

The government faces significant challenges in effectuating deportations from within the United States because unauthorized immigrants are hard to identify in the interior, enforcement agents lack some of the broad authority they have at U.S. borders, and many unauthorized immigrants are integrated within U.S. communities. These challenges, along with limited enforcement budgets, mean that Congress and successive presidents have for decades sought to focus enforcement resources on certain groups of noncitizens identified as high priorities for deportation, including national security threats, convicted criminals, and recent border crossers.

Even with clearly articulated enforcement priorities, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confronts a number of tradeoffs in designing an overall interior enforcement strategy. Most importantly, there is a fundamental tradeoff between the quality and quantity of deportations. Policymakers must choose between maximizing the volume of deportations and ensuring that deportations focus on the highest-priority cases. Additional tradeoffs involve balancing additional deportations through aggressive interior enforcement against the potential harm to community trust and public safety, the well-being of immigrant communities, and the civil and constitutional rights of immigrants and citizens.[…]”

Source: Migration Policy Ins