In August, the Obama Administration announced it would begin reviewing all pending deportation cases and closing those it determines does not fit within its “priorities.” Many have described this policy shift as “administrative amnesty” for millions of illegal aliens, but, until now, the Administration has provided scant information about how it plans to go about implementing its amnesty plan.

Some of the details began to be sketched in on Nov. 7 when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) issued a policy memo to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in implementing the Morton memos and establishing the new interagency working group. The USCIS memo asserts new guidelines for issuing Notices to Appear (NTAs) to initiate removal proceedings against an alien, and for referring cases to ICE. It was issued to “ensure that [USCIS’s] issuance of NTAs fits within and supports the Government’s overall removal priorities….” (USCIS Policy Memo, pg. 1)

The policy memo identifies instances in which USCIS personnel can unilaterally issue NTAs, such as when the agency denies petitions to remove conditional status for aliens who had obtained legal status through marriage, or when the agency terminates an alien’s refugee status. However, for the vast majority of other circumstances where issuing an NTA would be considered, the memo provides that the USCIS must refer the case to ICE to make a decision. For example, the memo categorizes certain criminal offenses as either “Egregious Public Safety Cases” or “Non-Egregious Public Safety Criminal Cases.” All egregious public safety cases (and non-egregious cases where the alien is inadmissible or removable) must be referred to ICE for action. Following referral of a case, ICE will “decide if, when, and how to issue an NTA and/or detain the alien,” effectively forcing control out of USCIS’ hands. At that point, USCIS is powerless to issue an NTA if ICE chooses not to.

Based on the policy guidelines laid out in the Morton memos, ICE is now where deportation cases go to die. The practical effect of the Nov. 7th memo is to remove as much authority as possible from USCIS personnel to initiate removals, even when in their professional judgment, removal is warranted.

The memo demonstrates not only the Obama Administration’s unrelenting commitment to implementing executive amnesty, but also its strong-arming of all three of the agencies within the Department of Homeland Security to ensure compliance with its agenda. By refusing to issue NTAs to criminal aliens who do not meet the Administration’s “priorities,” the president shows a complete disregard for the rule of law and jeopardizes the safety of Americans.