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  1. #1
    Senior Member Ratbstard's Avatar
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    Appeals court puts 5 deportation cases on hold
    Bob Egelko
    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has set criteria for deportation leniency.

    A sharply divided federal appeals court put five deportation cases on hold Monday and asked the government how the immigrants, mostly longtime residents with U.S. citizen children, fit into the Obama administration's plan to focus on removing the most dangerous illegal entrants.

    The unusual action came in a series of 2-1 rulings by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The dissenter, Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, issued identical opinions in each case saying the court had seriously overstepped its authority.

    The orders appear to be the court's attempt to mesh its everyday review of immigration cases with the administration's plans to review, under its newly announced priorities, the cases of all 300,000 illegal immigrants who have been ordered deported or are in deportation proceedings.

    The director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, John Morton, issued a memo in June telling his agents that the priority list for deportations should start with convicted criminals, repeated illegal entrants and those with records of violence.

    Morton said agents should consider such factors as an immigrant's U.S. family ties and hardships, length of residence, age on arrival, and prospects of winning legal residence in deciding whether to put their cases on hold.

    Monday's five cases all involved individuals or couples who have been ordered deported but appear to fit Morton's criteria for leniency.

    For example, the court said, David Aranda Rodriguez, a Mexican native who his lawyer said is a Bay Area resident, has a "long presence in the United States," no known criminal record and two U.S. citizen daughters, one of whom suffers from asthma.

    Dario and Lucila San Agustin, natives of the Philippines who live in Southern California, have been in the United States for almost 20 years and have two U.S. citizen daughters, both in high school. They also have no records of criminal convictions.

    "They're good people, trying to stay here long enough to have their kids graduate from high school," said the couple's lawyer, Deborah Karapetian.

    The court had previously upheld all five deportation orders and was considering the immigrants' requests for rehearings. On Monday, the majority, Judges William Canby and Raymond Fisher, told the Obama administration to report by March 19 on whether the government would hold off on deporting them, based on Morton's criteria.

    O'Scannlain, in dissent, said the court had no authority to ask immigration officials how they would enforce a discretionary policy. "The majority thus needlessly catapults this court into a realm of decision-making from which it is constitutionally walled off," he said.

    Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

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