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Those with No Criminal Background no Longer a Priority for Deportation

As an Austin immigration attorney, I am often asked by my clients about immigration reform. I would not call Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s statement on Thursday a “reform,” but rather, I see it as very narrow, positive policy.

Ms. Napolitano announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be re-shifting its focus. The emphasis will be on deporting illegal immigrants who are criminals or those who pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Approximately 300,000 cases pending in immigration court will be reviewed on a case-by-cases basis implementing this new standard. Those cases that are considered “low priority” are the ones most likely to benefit and may be administratively closed.

This new policy does not provide immigrants with a path to permanent residency. However, those who get their cases administratively closed would have the opportunity to apply for a work permit. Work permits are only temporary and do not grant any immigrant status or even the ability to travel.

Austin immigration attorney have expressed concerns about the community possibly mistaking this policy as a type of “amnesty.” The policy that will be implemented is not an amnesty program. There is also no guarantee that any case would be considered low priority, and therefore, people should be very careful in how they interpret this new announcement.

Again, the new policy is not amnesty, does not grant legal status, and is not something people can sign up for. It only applies to those in deportation proceedings. The new policy will concentrate on reviewing cases that are already pending and the August 18th announcement is preliminary in nature only.

This new policy is a temporary decision focused on preserving limited government resources by deporting only those who are not considered to be low priority. Who is or is not to be considered “low priority” will be determined by looking at the totality of the circumstances.


The best course of action is to consult with an Austin immigration attorney and not to take action without legal consultation. At this time, there is no petition available to be filed, no filing fee that can be paid, and no guidance from immigration authorities on how pending cases will be reviewed.
If you are in need of immigration advice, please call The Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC at (512) 329-2770 to set up a consultation.