Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing regarding immigration, border security, visas and other security issues on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 19, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo
WASHINGTON, June 7 (UPI) -- An Obama administration review of deportations before U.S. immigration courts has resulted in fewer than 2 percent of cases being closed, statistics indicate.
That's far less than expectations that had been raised among immigrants when the administration said it would begin reviewing backlogged court dockets and close cases in which immigrants had strong family ties in the United States and no criminal records, The New York Times reported.
Obama is hoping for support from immigrants in his re-election bid.
As of May 29, after seven months of the review, immigration prosecutors had looked at 288,361 cases, and 4,403 have been closed.
"It's a lot of work for not very much," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California.
If cases are closed, deportations are suspended but not canceled and immigrants don't get work permits. The Times said many immigrants have turned down prosecutors' offers to close cases, instead deciding to fight in court where they could become full legal permanent residents if they win.
Statistics show 3,998 immigrants have declined the prosecutors' offers, nearly half of those who received them.
Homeland Security Department officials say delays related to criminal background checks have slowed the review.
By the end of the review of 411,000 cases this year, Homeland Security officials say at least 20,600 immigrants facing deportation will be given the opportunity to have their cases closed.
"This is a massive undertaking," a Homeland Security official said. "At the end of the day, we are going to say to more than 20,000 people: 'We will not deport you.' That is a very significant thing."