In some special immigration cases, Congress can decide on whether or not to legalize a person’s immigration status in specific circumstances, often referred to as “private bills.” While this is rare, when this occurs, the person’s deportation order is delayed, sometimes for years, in order to await the outcome of this process. According to the Associate Press, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan sent a letter to Congress, saying that the agency will now only delay deporting immigrants with legislation for up to six months with the possibility of one 90-day extension. The letter also said that lawmakers and committee members must now formally ask authorities to delay deportations.
Democratic Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California criticized this decision to alter longstanding practices without consulting Congress. “To threaten to deport a handful of immigrants before Congress can act to protect them shows just how far this Administration will go,” they said in a joint statement.
There are very few Congressional “private bills” that are presented and even less are passed, with fewer than 94 enacted from 1986 to 2013. However, they are still important pieces of legislation that help immigrant families in difficult situations. One example is the case of a Japanese widow of a U.S. Marine who gave birth to their son after the Marine was killed in Iraq. Another example is a young a man whose mother was killed in a U.S. car crash when he was teen, and who was never legally adopted.
It is clear that this is another tactic that the administration is looking to implement as part of their mass deportation plan, which President Trump pledged he would execute during his campaign.