Illegal immigrants facing deportation in the Bay Area may get a small reprieve this summer. The federal government will begin closing hundreds of deportation cases for immigrants with strong community ties and no criminal record.
The San Francisco immigration court is one of the busiest in the nation, with 17,000 pending cases. The Mercury News reports, in June, the Executive Office for Immigration Review will bring in federal attorneys to examine the deportation cases and determine low-priority cases that can be dropped.
The procedure has been part of a pilot program in Baltimore and Denver, and is now expanding to most of the country. The "low-priority" cases will likely include students brought to the United States illegally at a young age who are otherwise upstanding residents.
However, dropping a deportation case does not grant illegal immigrants legal residency or citizenship. The government can still choose to deport them later.
Some private lawyers have criticised the system, because only the clearest cases are the ones that are dropped.
"It's the people who have the middling cases, who aren't likely to win, otherwise good people, they should be taken off the top and they're not," said attorney Laura Lichter to the Mercury News. "They're just normal people trying to work and support their families."
A statement from government officials says the case reviews will begin in late April in Detroit, New Orleans, Orlando and Seattle. The program will move to New York City in May, San Francisco in June and Los Angeles in July.
The Obama administration deported a record 397,000 people last year, and said last August that in would review all 300,000 pending deportation cases to target criminals and public safety dangers.