In a 2-1 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set a March 19 deadline for the Obama administration to explain whether it intends to use “prosecutorial discretion” to prevent the aliens’ removal. The five cases are on hold in the meantime.
On Thursday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas,) chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Utah), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Obama administration must make it clear to the court that the administration will enforce immigration laws, including the deportation of illegal and criminal immigrants who lose their cases in the federal court.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday, Smith and Grassley wrote: “In responding to the Ninth Circuit’s question, the administration will be required to reveal whether it intends to manipulate our legal system and waste taxpayer dollars, as part of its efforts to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.
“Your response to the Ninth Circuit’s order must clearly and unequivocally indicate that the government will enforce the immigration laws, including promptly deporting all removable aliens who lose their cases in the federal courts of appeals,” the lawmakers wrote.
In its ruling, the appeals court instructed the Obama administration “to advise the court by March 19, 2012, whether the government intends to exercise prosecutorial discretion in this case” – and if so, how that would affect “any action to be taken by this court.”
John Morton, the head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, directed ICE officials last June to use “discretion” in deciding whether to detain or deport illegal immigrants.
The intention is to kick out the worst offenders and release the all the others – specifically victims of domestic violence and other crimes; witnesses to crimes; or illegal aliens who are charged with minor traffic violations.
In their letter, the Republican lawmakers said they are “seriously concerned” that the court, in placing the deportations on hold, “ignores the rule of law and confounds constitutional principles, and we would like to know who how you plan to respond to the Court’s actions,” they added.
And if the Obama administration, in its response to the court, indicates that illegal and other removable aliens will be granted amnesty – “then it must explain to the American people what that answer means for the integrity of our legal system and why their tax dollars are being spent on prosecutions that the Obama administration has no intention of enforcing with deportation.”
Grassley and Smith said the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to put several deportation cases on hold is an “overreach of judicial authority and shows the inherent danger in his administration’s backdoor amnesty policies.” Instead of deciding these cases under the law of the land, the court is deferring to the Obama administration on whether to grant the illegal immigrants amnesty under the prosecutorial discretion.
The Republicans leaders accused the administration of planning to close tens of thousands of cases involving some 300,000 aliens who are in removal proceedings. They said the Ninth Circuit has acted beyond the bounds of its judicial role and is inserting itself into an area – prosecutorial discretion -- reserved solely to the executive branch.
“No previous administration, irrespective of political party, has chosen, en masse, to place restrictions on the type of removable aliens that may be processed for removal before immigration courts,” they wrote.
“Previous administrations have processed for removal those removable aliens who came to the attention of law enforcement. In other administrations, prosecutorial discretion was properly implemented on a case-by-case basis for a small number of aliens under especially compelling circumstances, but it was never used to circumvent the Immigration and Nationality Act.”