New statements about “prosecutorial discretion” from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may result in some people’s immigration court (EOIR) hearings being cancelled, and their cases being put on pending, inactive status.

What’s going on? Basically, the immigration enforcement authorities are always overworked, and have always had the ability to make choices as to which immigrants they would attempt to arrest and deport (for reasons ranging from the foreign nationals’ unlawful presence in the U.S. to their having committed crimes after obtaining a  U.S. green card).

But as of recently, ICE agents are expected to follow more specific guidelines in choosing who to prosecute — and not only that, to review cases that are already in the immigration court system, to see whether they’re actually worth pursuing. These reviews have already begun, and are expected to continue through mid-January of 2012.

In brief, the cases most likely to be kept in the immigration court system are those where the person is has a record of either immigration fraud or egregious violations of the immigration laws or of criminal, gang, or terrorist activity, is otherwise a threat to public safety, or has been removed (deported) from the U.S. before.

The cases most likely to be closed are those where the foreign national has served in the U.S. armed forces, are young people in school, have longstanding family (including same-sex) and other ties to the U.S., are the victims of crime or domestic violence), and so on.

You’ll have to wait and see whether ICE chooses to close your case. Although this won’t give you any concrete rights in the U.S. (i.e., it’s not a path to a green card), some people whose cases have been administratively closed will be able to receive U.S. work permits. The procedure for applying for a work permit has not yet been announced.

For details, talk to your attorney and read the David Morton memo found on the Secure Communities page of the ICE website.