DHS starts review, training to speed criminal deportations

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:53pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began a review on Thursday of deportation cases and launched training in moves aimed at speeding the expulsion of illegal aliens who are criminals.

The review and training will let badly backlogged immigration judges focus on deporting foreigners who have committed serious crimes, are recent border crossers or major immigration law violators.

A review of incoming cases by attorneys for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "will help reduce inefficiencies that delay the removal of criminal aliens and other priority cases by preventing new low priority cases from clogging the immigration court dockets," DHS said in a statement.

DHS and the Department of Justice also will launch a pilot review for pending cases in Denver and Baltimore starting on December 4. The reviews will run through January 13, the statement said.

As part of the new training program, ICE attorneys and agents will be taught how to use discretion in prosecuting cases involving illegal aliens. The training also will run through January 13.

The review and training are part of President Barack Obama's initiative announced in August to shift deportation policies.

The United States has about 11 million undocumented aliens. It has deported almost 400,000 people a year in the last three years.

The administration announced its initiative on deportations on August 18. Under the move, the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice said they would review and clear out low-priority cases from 300,000 backlogged deportation proceedings.

Heightened focus of immigration enforcement on those with criminal records would effectively leave alone those who came at a young age and have spent years in the United States.

The initiative is expected to help an estimated two million young people who under stalled legislation backed by the Obama administration could have achieved citizenship by pursuing higher education or military service.

As he faces re-election next year, Obama is working to maintain the strong support he had in 2008 from Hispanics, many of whom favor liberal immigration policies, even as the crackdown on illegal immigrants who have committed crimes can be cited as showing firmness.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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