The following story appeared in FAIR’s March 12 Legislative Update. To subscribe to FAIR’s Legislative Update click here.

Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton told Congress that his agency’s review of 300,000 pending deportation cases is already half complete. Morton delivered that news to the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee last week during a discussion of ICE’s proposed FY 2013 budget. Morton also told the Subcommittee that ICE had only closed a mere 1,500 deportation cases pursuant to that review.

The review of pending deportation cases is part of the Administration’s back-door amnesty program announced by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano in August 2011. (See Napolitano letter , Aug. 18, 2011) Since that announcement, ICE has issued guidelines to its agents on which cases deserve to be administratively closed and which cases are enforcement priorities. ICE began the deportation review through two pilot programs it launched in Baltimore and Denver last December. (For more on these guidelines and priorities, see FAIR’s webpage on the Morton Memos.)

However, the announcement that the deportation review is already half complete signals ICE is moving at a rapid pace to dispose of such cases. To have reviewed 150,000 cases by now would mean that ICE agents would have had to review and decide approximately 2,500 cases per work day since the pilot program started December 5, 2011. Morton’s testimony that his agency had only closed 1,500 is also highly questionable, as data ICE released after the conclusion of the Baltimore and Denver Pilot programs showed that those programs alone generated over 1,600 removals (See, e.g. FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 23, 2012; Bloomberg Businessweek, Jan. 19, 2012) Morton, however, stated that ICE was keeping detailed statistics on the administrative amnesty program and promised to share them with Congress.

Also during the Homeland Security Appropriations hearing, Morton touched on Cook County’s sanctuary ordinance that orders its jails to ignore ICE detainers. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 6, 2012) He emphasized the serious impact the Cook County ordinance was having on immigration enforcement, due to the size of Cook County’s jail system and that it houses thousands of aliens every year. When Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) asked him whether the government planned to sue Cook County to ensure cooperation, Morton responded that he was hoping to achieve his goals short of litigation.