WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. government said it will soon begin reviewing about 300,000 pending deportation cases, deporting criminals who pose a danger and closing other cases.
CNN reported Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress Wednesday a small "pilot" review of immigration cases by Homeland Security and Justice Department officials would begin within three weeks and she hopes to expand it quickly.
The administration will separate "high-priority" cases involving criminals it wants to deport from "low-priority" cases it will drop.
The federal policy, announced last year, puts the highest priority on deporting illegal immigrants who pose a threat to public safety or national security while "administratively closing" other cases. Factors to be considered include the immigrant's length of time in the United States, whether the person arrived as a child, served in the military or has a spouse, child or parent who is a U.S. citizen.
The policy represents a departure from the raids of work sites by the Bush administration toward deportation of illegal immigrants who are in prisons and jails.
Critics say "administratively closing" cases gives "amnesty" to illegal immigrants.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called the policy "alarming, especially for those of us who firmly believe in the rule of law."
He said it remained unclear whether illegal immigrants with criminal convictions could stay in the country and what would happen to undocumented immigrants whose cases are closed.
"We want answers. We want transparency and accountability. We want to be part of the process," Grassley said.