The Obama administration is temporarily suspending immigration court dockets in four cities as part of its plan to overhaul its deportation system.
The overhaul involves a review by immigration authorities of thousands of cases as part of a plan to indefinitely delay deportation proceedings for many non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
The immigration court dockets in Detroit, New Orleans, Orlando, and Seattle will be suspended during the review cases involving undocumented immigrants not held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday.
ICE previously reviewed 11,682 in Baltimore and Denver.
Officials recommended suspending more than 1,600 cases in those two cities.
The reviews are part of an Obama administration pledge to focus deportation resources on criminal immigrants and those who pose a national security or public safety threat.
Last year, the Obama administration announced that it planned to suspend deportations while it reviewed each case to prioritize those involving criminals or people who pose national security threats.
The administration took the steps to review its deportation system after immigration advocates complained that – contrary to Obama’s 2008 campaign promises to reform immigration to make it easier for certain undocumented people to legalize their status – more people than ever have been deported.
More than one million people have been deported since Obama has been in office – most have no criminal records.
Recently, the ICE director told Congress that the agency had reviewed about 142,000 pending deportation cases, but it had set aside just 1,500.
Proponents of more lenient immigration policies say the Obama administration is not doing enough to stem what they see as an overzealous approach to deportations.
But those who want stricter immigration enforcement call the administration's suspension of court dockets "backdoor amnesty."
On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, assailed the administration’s plans to suspend court dockets of undocumented immigrants in four additional locations.
“This decision is just another part of the Obama administration’s plan to grant administrative amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants,” Smith said in a statement. “The Obama administration’s decision to expand its backdoor amnesty plan to cities across the United States endangers Americans and insults law enforcement officials."
This story contains material from The Associated Press.
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