In a rather significant development in the area of immigration law, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a major policy shift in the nation's deportation procedures during her testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations this past Wednesday.
According to Lynch, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will henceforth provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement with the first opportunity to take released inmates facing deportation into custody as opposed to local law enforcement in possession of outstanding warrants.
Lynch went on to indicate that even though ICE will be given priority in these matters, it didn't mean necessarily mean that local law enforcement would be effectively barred from prosecuting these released inmates for other criminal offenses.
Indeed, she stated that local law enforcement would be allowed to take them into custody provided they supply "assurances that ICE would also then be able to get the individual back."
According to experts, the impetus for this policy change was likely the tragic shooting of a 32-year-old woman on a San Francisco pier less than a year ago.
The suspect in the shooting is a man who had previously been deported five times and was transferred to the Bay Area after being release from federal prison as local authorities had a warrant for his arrest. However, once the decision was subsequently made not to prosecute him, he was released without notification being given to ICE.
The man, who has since pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges, has indicated that the shooting was an accident.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the new policy has thus far met with relatively little criticism. Indeed, one immigrant advocacy group indicated that it will likely affect relatively few cases, and could actually foster improved communication among law enforcement and immigration officials.
What are your thoughts on the DOJ's policy shift?
Whether you have concerns regarding deportation or questions about another immigration matter, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.