Examining Prosecutorial Discretion in Deportation

November 11, 2015

Prosecutorial discretion has long been part of our legal system, including in the immigration context. A case from the 1970s involving John Lennon marked the first time that the administration’s prosecutorial discretion policy became public knowledge, despite its use going back to past administrations. Today, the concept of prosecutorial discretion is more widely known in light of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, a record number of deportations and a stalemate in Congress to move immigration reform.

Prosecutorial discretion can be a powerful tool in protecting individuals from deportation. It allows immigrants’ stories to be heard and weigh in their favor to stay in the country that they have made their home. In the words of Penn State Law Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, an expert in immigration law, Prosecutorial discretion allows the agency to inject compassion into an otherwise complex and broken system.

The CBF and co-sponsors, The Chicago Bar Association and National Immigrant Justice Center, recently held a discussion for Shoba’s new book, Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases hosted by Mayer Brown on October 8. Shoba was joined by panelists Geoffrey Heeren, associate professor and director of the Immigration Clinic at Valparaiso University, Claudia Valenzuela, director of the Detention Project at the National Immigrant Justice Center, and Tara Magner as moderator of the discussion.

CQ4kCXcWIAA9EdqShoba is the founder and director of Penn State’s Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and is one of the nation’s leading scholars on the role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law. Beyond Deportation is the first book to comprehensively examine the history, theory, and application of that subject. It provides a rich history of the role of prosecutorial discretion in the immigration system and unveils the powerful role it plays in protecting individuals from deportation and saving the government resources.

Thanks to Shoba, Geoff, Claudia, and Tara for an engaging and informative discussion.