Don’t Believe the Hype on Immigration Prosecutorial Discretion, Updated:

Posted on August 26, 2011


As usual, the right wing media machine has used Obama’s equivocal and essentially empty announcement regarding prosecutorial discretion to mislead the public into believing it is some kind of catch all amnesty program.

Of course, it is no such thing. Prosecutorial discretion has been for quite a long time a standard practice in immigration proceedings. It affects very few cases, ostensibly those pertaining to family unification and/or extreme hardship. And even in those cases, the criteria are fluid and the discretion is simply, well…discretion. There are no guarantees. People should be wary of Obama’s claim that a committee will now plow through an estimated 300,000 cases already in  proceedings, amplifying its criteria and the designated cases in which prosecutorial discretion will play a role. More than anything, the promise of new and improved prosecutorial discretion is a PR ploy for an administration that is unable, and more than likely, unwilling to fight for any of the immigration reforms it promised the Democratic base. Instead of the flawed iteration of the DREAM [i.e., military force multiplier] Act that continues to move through the bowels of congress, Obama has given a marker to pass over those who would benefit from the Act if it ever passes. Whether or not even this half-hearted promise will have the  impact many hope for, is yet to be seen.

But of all the dangers of the public buying Obama’s prosecutorial discretion hype, none is so great as the actual undocumented immigrant community accepting it as a lifeline. A friend involved in immigration law told me that they are getting several inquiries a day by immigrants facing or fearing deportation seeking legal help in accessing the illusory Obama pronouncement. Even worse, some are falling prey to unscrupulous legal professionals and “notarios” promising to fix their status with the imaginary new regime. It’s important to spread the word. Nothing has changed, immigrants still face the same immigration system under Obama.

The PDF linked here provides information in English and Spanish for those seeking to evaluate the latest pronouncement. Please download and circulate it.


Yet another example of the substance-free choreography that is our national discourse on immigration. A lucky break for the Republican noise machine–an undocumented immigrant involved in an alleged alcohol related vehicular manslaughter incident–becomes a forum for disinformation on Secure Communities and on the recent announcement by DHS on prosecutorial discretion. A National Review article, pretends to be unaware that Secure Communities is no longer optional, but obligatory, and blames Governor Duval Patrick for his previous resistance to the program.