How the Obama Administration Can Use Executive Authority to Stop Deportations

Whether or not Congress enacts immigration reform in 2014, the status quo is unacceptable. More than 1,000 immigrants are separated from their families and communities each day. The Obama administration has both the legal authority and the moral responsibility to prevent tomorrow’s citizens from suffering the consequences of political inaction.

“Administrative relief,” which is based on prosecutorial discretion, is a broad term that encompasses various forms of temporary relief from removal from the United States without the granting of a legal immigration status. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) prosecutorial discretion powers include the ability to refrain from placing a potentially deportable person in deportation proceedings, suspend or even terminate a deportation proceeding, postpone a deportation, release a person from detention, or deprioritize the enforcement of immigration laws against a person because it does not serve enforcement interests.

Some forms of prosecutorial discretion include a grant of work authorization—a critical need for many members of immigrant communities. Eligibility for work authorization should include more categories of people, such as people whose removal cases have been administratively closed.

DHS has the capability to expand its prosecutorial discretion guidelines.[*] There are several existing forms of prosecutorial discretion, including existing DHS administrative remedies, that can be expanded. This table also describes some forms of discretionary relief that are based on the immigration statute, such as temporary protected status (TPS).

To access the table, whose categories are “Form of relief,” “Description,” “Authority for relief,” “Who is eligible?,” “Is a work permit available?,” and “Example,” click here or on the PDF icon, above.

* See Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Consistent with the Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities of the Agency for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens, a memorandum to all ICE field office directors, special agents in charge, and chief counsel from John Morton, director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, June 17, 2011,