Union fight interrupts immigration reviews

For the first time, the Obama administration is reviewing more than 300,000 illegal immigration cases. The goal is to change the way people are deported.

CBS News correspondent Whit Johnson reports that a fight with the union representing immigration agents is slowing the process leaving many families in limbo.

For the first time ever, all pending illegal immigration cases in the U.S. are under review. President Obama has ordered sweeping changes to how illegal immigrants are deported, but a fight between administration officials and a union representing immigration agents is slowing the process.

Whit Johnson reports that it's also left those facing deportation in limbo.

Just before Christmas, immigration agents picked up Jorge Giron and his wife Maria Elena for an old deportation order.

"I told them I'm not a criminal. I'm just a people, person trying to give a better life to my family," Giron said.

Jorge, a 41 year old electrician who came to the U.S. from Guatemala 22 years ago, was released. His wife was deported back to Mexico, her home country.

The couple has three children, all American citizens. Diego is 10 years old.

"I miss my mom and, and I just basically thought about her like all day, all night," Diego said.

Jorge's case is under review, and he too may be deported. But soon, because of a new policy handed down by the Obama Administration, families like the Girons may avoid separation.

Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton said: "If you're having to decide between putting someone who's lived in this country for a very, very long time, or somebody who's committed a crime, start with the person who has committed a crime."

Morton wrote in a June memo that agents will have to prioritize each case, considering things like a person's length of presence in the U.S., military service, and criminal history.

But some of the fiercest criticism has come from within ICE's ranks.

Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, called the new situation full of "confusion and frustration."

Crane's National ICE Council is the union representing thousands of agents. He told a House subcommittee in October that the new directives order ICE agents to not enforce the law.

In a statement to CBS News, Crane said the policy is "operationally next to impossible" because agents can't be expected to investigate the backgrounds of every single illegal immigrant.

Others have called it amnesty.

Morton, the director of ICE, said in the end, everyone remains subject to removal.

Despite the blowback, Morton says the policy is moving forward, and hopes to reach an agreement with the union by the end of January so it can be fully implemented.

Caught in the middle are families like the Girons ,unsure about whether this change in enforcement could keep them together.

"Really, honest, I love this country, because all I have is from here and I want to stay here. I wish to stay here," Jorge Giron said.

The Obama Administration has deported over 1.6 million people, more than any other president.

Director Morton says that number likely won't change, but who stays and who goes will.

  • Whit Johnson

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