[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] issued a directive [memorandum, PDF] on Friday saying that it will stop deporting many illegal immigrants [press release] under the age of 30 who were brought to the US as children. In the memorandum, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano [official profile] declared that the DHS would exercise what it termed “prosecutorial discretion” toward undocumented immigrants who were under 16 years old when they entered the US, have continuously resided in the US for at least five years, have graduated high school or served in the armed forces, have not committed a crime and are under the age of 30. Napolitano said that the DHS policy directive is necessary to ensure that the nation’s immigration laws are enforced justly:
Our Nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner. They are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Indeed, many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways. Prosecutorial discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.
In the memorandum, Napolitano also clarified that the DHS directive does not create any new immigration status or pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Immigration [JURIST backgrounder] has been a contentious issue recently. On Tuesday the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] called for the immediate release [JURIST report] of immigrants being held in detention units in a prison in Arizona, alleging that the prison conditions violate the US Constitution. Earlier this month a federal judge heard arguments [JURIST report] to determine whether Arizona citizens may join in a class action lawsuit challenging the state’s controversial immigration law [SB 1070, PDF; JURIST news archive]. In May a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that several Arizona residents have standing to challenge SB 1070. Earlier in May, the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that immigrant children cannot rely on their parents’ immigration status.