U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has instructed its agency's legal office to stop deportation proceedings against tens of thousands of foreign nationals who are married or related to a U.S. citizen or a legal resident who has filed a petition for them, The Miami Herald reported Friday.
"Where there is an underlying application or petition and ICE determines ... that a non-detained individual appears eligible for relief from removal, [its attorneys] should promptly move to dismiss proceedings,'' ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton wrote in a memo to the agency's principal legal adviser and the head of enforcement and removal operations.
Prior to the memo, foreign nationals in deportation proceedings faced likely deportation even if they had pending relative petitions.
Immigration attorneys and activists in South Florida called the move solid evidence of more tolerance by ICE toward some foreign nationals facing removal to their homelands.
"Good for John Morton and ICE,'' said Cheryl Little, executive director of Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. "This is the kind of reform we need. Targeting those who intend to do harm while expediting the cases of law-abiding immigrants is the best use of ICE's precious resources and will save taxpayers money.''