Judicial Watch Sues DOJ for Records Detailing Government Pilot Program Testing the Dismissal of Immigration Charges against Illegal Aliens
Six-Week Pilot Program Launched in Baltimore, Maryland and Denver, Colorado in December 2011
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit on June 11, 2012 against the Obama Department of Justice seeking records pertaining to a six-week pilot program designed to test the Obama administration’s new standards for the dismissal of immigration charges against certain illegal aliens. The Obama administration tested this program first in the cities of Baltimore, Maryland and Denver, Colorado beginning on December 4, 2011.
Judicial Watch seeks the following records pursuant to its original November 23, 2011 FOIA request to the Executive Office of Immigration Review (“EOIR”), a component of the Justice Department:
i. Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the six-week pilot program in Baltimore and Denver that is scheduled to begin on December 4, 2011 and under which the immigration-related charges against certain undocumented residents may be subject to dismissal. This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all policy guidelines, implementation plans, training materials, and directives regarding the pilot program.
ii. Any and all records of communication between any official, employee or representative of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and any official, employee or representative of any other government agency, office or department (including, but not limited to, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Executive Office of the President, the City of Baltimore, and the City of Denver) regarding concerning or related to the pilot program.
The Justice Department acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA request on November 28, 2011 and was required by law to respond by January 11, 2012 at the latest. As of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the Obama administration has failed to turn over any records responsive to the request, indicate which records are exempt from disclosure, or notify Judicial Watch when a response is forthcoming.
On June 30, 2010, John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent a memo to all ICE employees instructing local immigration officials to use their discretion in “prioritizing” illegal immigration deportation cases. On June 17, 2011, John Morton followed up with another memo to all field officers, special agents and to the chief counsel further defining the term “prosecutorial discretion,” which, in essence, asked immigration officials to focus deportation proceedings on illegal aliens convicted of crimes. However, Judicial Watch uncovered documents proving immigration officials considered suspending the deportation of illegal aliens convicted of violent crimes.
In November 2011, as reported by CNN, the Obama administration announced that on December 4, 2011 it would begin a pilot program in Baltimore and Denver to “test the process for reviewing cases pending before the immigration court.”
“The Obama administration has been playing games with its immigration policy from the beginning in its attempt to evade Congress and implement illegal alien amnesty,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “First Obama administration officials tried to implement stealth amnesty outside of the public eye, and then when the cat was out of the bag, they doubled down on the policy in open defiance of the law. The American people are tired of the obfuscation and gamesmanship from the Obama administration on such a serious issue. The message is simple: No more secrecy. No more games. Release the records.”
On Friday, June 15, 2012 the Obama administration announced it would no longer deport unlawfully present alients immigrants under age 30 who came to the United States as children, a policy described by Politico’s Steve Friess as “a temporary, de facto implementation of a part of the stalled DREAM Act,” that sends “a loud message to Hispanic voters to remember Obama in November.”