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Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Enforcement: Legal Issues

Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Enforcement: Legal Issues – Kate M. Manuel, Legislative Attorney; Todd Garvey, Legislative Attorney. January 17, 2013

  • “The term prosecutorial discretion is commonly used to describe the wide latitude that prosecutors have in determining when, whom, how, and even whether to prosecute apparent violations of the law. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and, later, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components have historically described themselves as exercising prosecutorial discretion in immigration enforcement. Some commentators have recently challenged this characterization on the grounds that DHS enforces primarily civil violations, and some of its components cannot be said to engage in “law enforcement,” as that term is conventionally understood. However, even agencies that do not prosecute or engage in law enforcement have been recognized as having discretion (sometimes referred to as enforcement discretion) in determining whether to enforce particular violations.”
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