[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday released statistics[text, PDF] that show a steady decline in new deportation cases brought by the Obama administration [official website] in US immigration courts [materials] over the last five years, and that more judges have begun ruling against deportations. The numbers indicate a 43 percent drop [NYT report] in the number of deportations through these courts since 2009 and 26 percent fewer deportation cases opened by the administration. In 2009 judges decided against deportation and allowed foreigners to remain in the US in roughly one-fifth of the cases presented to them. Last year that number increased to about one-third as more immigrants have begun hiring lawyers and fighting deportations, resulting in longer and more complicated cases. Although the deportations ordered by the immigration courts make up only part of the total deportations in this country each year, this trend still contributed to an overall drop in deportation figures. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security [official website] said that the newly released statistics are the result of efforts to focus on removing convicting criminals, people who recently crossed the country's border illegally and those posing security threats.
There have been many recent developments surrounding US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder], which has been a controversial subject over the past several years. In November Obama issued a memorandum [JURIST report] giving US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) [official website] the authority to "parole in place" the children, spouses and parents of active duty members of the armed forces, the selected reserve of the ready reserve and former members thereof. In October Obama signed into law [JURIST report] a bill granting special immigration status to Iraqis who have aided US forces. In September a judge in Washington state ruled [JURIST report] that local enforcement officers cannot extend detention of individuals to question them about their immigration status. In May the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] of Georgia reported [JURIST report] that undocumented immigrants face constitutional and human rights violations in Georgia detention centers. In September 2011 the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled that immigrants who are imprisoned while fighting deportation cannot be held indefinitely [JURIST report] without a bail hearing and that the government must justify the need for the prolonged detention.