Legislation vs. Administrative Reliefs, Part I

Amnesty Law was passed by the Congress during President Reagan’s time in 1986. Under the Immigration Reform Act 1986, persons who entered the U.S. on or before January 1, 1982 or performed agricultural work for 90 days during May 1985 to 1986 were granted amnesty and legalized their status as a permanent resident.

Since 1986, there have been several bills passed by the Congress, under which amendments were made to make changes in the law to grant some benefits and also enforcement to deter entry of illegal aliens apprehension and deportation of persons in unlawful status. However, no amnesty bill has been passed by the Congress until this date.

Most of the Presidents, including Bill Clinton, George Bush, and presently, Barack Obama, have supported the legislation to provide legal status to undocumented aliens. However, due to strong oppositions from the Congressional Republicans, no such bill has been passed by the Congress and more than 11 million undocumented aliens are presently in the U.S., many of them do not have social security numbers and driving license, their children cannot pursue studies in colleges, and aliens apprehended even for small violations are deported from the U.S. Attempts were made to get the Dream Act passed by the Congress to give legal status to undocumented students who entered the U.S. under the age of 16 years, so that they can come out of the shadow and live, study, or work in the U.S. without any fear. All efforts to get the Dream Act passed by the Congress have failed.

President Barack Obama made a campaign promise to get some sort of earned legalization bill and legislation, such as the Dream Act, passed by the Congress, but has failed in accomplishing this objective.

Having been frustrated by the failure on the part of the Congress to get any meaningful legislation passed by the Congress, Obama Administration has made several efforts to make changes in the manner of how existing laws are implemented, which will provide some relief to undocumented aliens. The Administration has issued several memos to concerned officials of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Government lawyers, and Immigration Judges, to follow the policy laid down by the Administration in providing reliefs as well as enforcement of the existing law.

In this series of articles, we will provide the text of these memos mentioned herewith, so that our readers can benefit from the Administrative Guidelines:

1. Memo of March 2, 2011 issued by John Morton, Director of ICE, to all concerned officials with regards to Civil Immigration Enforcement: Priorities for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens.


This memorandum outlines the civil immigration enforcement priorities of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as they relate to the apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens. These priorities shall apply across all ICE programs and shall inform enforcement activity, detention decisions, budget requests and execution, and strategic planning.<