Should there be a priority list when it comes to deportation?
DALLAS - The Pew Hispanic Center says 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States. Last year, the U.S. deported nearly 400,000 people living in the country illegally.
A new memo released from the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now encouraging a priority list. The memo could be welcome news to a number of local immigrants, mostly students and the elderly, set for deportation.
Could the Obama administration be making a quiet but powerful move toward amnesty for certain illegal immigrants?
The recently released memo from John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, has given new hope to some long-time illegal residents faced with with immediate deportation.
Dated last Friday, the memo was from Morton to all the regional directors, special agents and chief counsel.
"Because the agency is confronted with more violations than its resources can address, the agency must regularly exercise prosecutorial discretion," it read.
"Felons," "gang members," "repeat offenders" first.
But, the following cases should prompt special consideration, inlcuding "minors and elderly individuals," those "in the U.S. since childhood" and those who "have or are pursuing a college or advanced degree at a legitimate institution of higher education."
This is the third in a series of memos from the the ICE agency director.
Immigration activist Ralph Isenberg, of Dallas, said this is easily the most declarative.
"His memo last year, apparently ICE didn't get it," he said. "His officers throughout the nation didn't get it and we've continued to deport families, we've continued to deport students and I think the pressure is now building."
So much so that the memo is already being given credit for a reprieve just awarded to one California college student who was slated for deportation to India Wednesday.
Isenberg hopes it will also help reverse deportation orders for two students he has sponsored, Hector Lopez in Oregon and Olga Zanella in Irving.
"When I heard about it, it was pretty much what we have been waiting for, something that will give us hope," he said.
Zanella's parents brought her to America from Mexico when she was six. She has petitioned the government for asylum citing dangerous conditions in her native country.
"And I know that this is the only hope I have for me and for my family," she said.
Conservative talk radio host Mark Davis says compassion is natural, but those here illegally are knowingly breaking the law.
"If you are taking a breath in the United States of America and you are here illegally, you have broken the law," he said. "And a lot of illegal immigrants want us to go soft on this and they celebrate this kind of hand-wringing."