HEH: DHS speeds high-profile deportations; Democrats call changes mean-spirited. [archive]

For years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had a policy of holding off on deportation of someone if members of Congress had written legislation granting them legal status — something known as a “private bill.” But Thomas Homan, acting director at ICE, notified Congress late last week that his agency will no longer automatically follow that practice, saying it would run afoul of President Trump’s new executive order pushing deportation for criminals and public safety risks.

ICE will now only stop a deportation if it gets a specific request from the chairman of the Judiciary Committee or the relevant subcommittee in either the House or Senate. And ICE will only allow one stay, Mr. Homan said, meaning that illegal immigrants can’t be protected indefinitely by congressional request.

In practice, the number of people affected is small. Just 27 private bills were introduced in the last Congress, spanning 2015 and 2016. So far this year 15 private bills have been filed, suggesting an uptick — but still far from a flood of requests. The bills rarely go anywhere, however. No private bills were signed into law in either of the last two Congresses, and just three have been enacted over the last decade.

Mr. Homan said since so few of the immigration bills ever become law, holding off on deportations doesn’t make sense. “The stay mechanism, combined with the repeated introduction of bills, which are rarely, if ever enacted, could prevent ICE from removing aliens who fall within the enforcement priorities outline [by the president], including those who pose a risk to public safety or national security,” Mr. Homan wrote.