UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A letter on the use of prosecutorial discretion in the enforcement of immigration law signed by 136 immigration law experts and co-written by a Penn State Law professor was delivered to the White House today.
U.S. law professors from 32 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico signed on to the letter, co-authored by ShobaSivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Penn State Law.
The letter argues that President Obama has wide legal authority to make changes to immigration enforcement policy. The president is considering how to use his executive authority to alter the U.S. immigration system and keep certain individuals from being deported.
In addition to Wadhia, the letter was written by Stephen H. Legomsky, John S. Lehmann University Professor at Washington University School of Law and former U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chief Counsel, and Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law.
"Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation," said Wadhia. "This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal."
The letter argues that "the administration has the legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for managing resources and protecting individuals residing in and contributing to the United States in meaningful ways." It goes on to explain that presidents from both parties have used prosecutorial discretion to prevent specific, and often large, groups of immigrants from being deported.
This is the second major letter about prosecutorial discretion that law professors have sent to President Obama. The first letter, signed by Wadhia and sent in 2012, outlined the legal argument for expanded administrative relief, which later became the blueprint for the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That program allows qualifying noncitizens who came to the United States as children to apply for relief from deportation and work authorization.
The National Immigration Law Center and the American Immigration Council (AIC) helped to distribute the latest White House letter, which is available online at pennstatelaw.psu.edu/lawprofessorletter.
Wadhia is an expert on immigration law and one of the nation’s leading scholars on the role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law. Her scholarship in this area has served as a foundation for scholars, advocates, and government officials seeking to understand or design a strong prosecutorial discretion policy. Her work identifies the historical role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law, the extent to which some acts of discretion operate as a benefit, and the dynamic role and need for transparency, sound procedures, and accountability. Her book, Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases, will be published by New York University Press in 2015 and is the first on the topic.