A U.S.- based Nigerian attorney, Oby Aniagoh, says the Obama administration’s new immigration policy on deportation is a positive sign that will renew the hope of thousands of illegal African immigrants.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Aug. 18, announced that many illegal immigrants who were facing deportation but had no criminal record, would be allowed to stay in the country.
The new rule will allow illegal immigrants without criminal records to apply for a work permit from the Homeland Security Department.
Under the new policy, some 300,000 deportation cases pending in the U.S. Immigration Court will now be reviewed.
Aniagoh, an Atlanta-based Immigration Attorney, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that there were approximately 10,000 Nigerians on deportation/removal proceedings in the U.S.
“The focus on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal history, or who pose a threat to national security/public safety will greatly unclog the immigration court dockets and lead to a concentration of DHS enforcement resources on those who pose a threat to public safety.
“This decision by DHS is also fair to immigrants in general and will foster a united family structure.
“There have been divergent views from people who argue that granting the illegal immigrant a fast track to getting work permits could lead to unfair competition with Americans who are still looking for jobs.
“I believe that this decision by the DHS actually makes economic sense for the government, as there is a need to cut billions of dollars from the federal budget which could be achieved by spending less on enforcement resources targeted toward illegal immigrants that have no criminal records and pose no societal threats to anyone.
“I believe this is an appropriate way for the U.S. government to come up with an interim fix, since the immigration situation is getting worse in the U.S.A., while Congress is embroiled in partisan politics regarding this issue.”
The attorney added that her immigration firm received around 20-25 immigration cases monthly and her clientele were predominantly African, Hispanic, Portuguese and Caribbean nationals.
An estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, most of them Hispanic, live in the U.S.
The new policy means many illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and graduated from high schools and wanted to enrol in college or the armed forces would be designated low priority for deportation.
Meanwhile, a statement by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) had described the Obama decision as an important step to a fairer approach to the U.S. immigration enforcement policy.
Antonio Ginatta, the U.S. Advocacy Director at the HRW, said that “by weeding out low-priority cases, President Obama has injected some rationality into flawed U.S. immigration enforcement policy.
“Considering a person’s ties and contributions to the U.S. before making a final deportation decision is nothing more than common sense,” Ginatta added.
The HRW director, however, noted that one shortcoming of the announced changes was the lack of clarity about whether any criminal conviction would disqualify an immigrant from having their deportation suspended.
“Many immigrants currently on deportation proceedings have been convicted of minor traffic offences or immigration-related violations like “illegal entry”.
“In determining what constitutes a low priority case, DHS should differentiate between these minor, nonviolent crimes and more serious offences,” Ginata said.
He advised the DHS to also include in the low-priority definition, cases involving long-term legal permanent
residents who had committed a crime in the distant past.(NAN)