DHS adding public advocate for immigration agency

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By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department has appointed a public advocate to handle complaints and questions about its immigration enforcement policies.

The appointment of Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, a senior adviser at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was announced Tuesday.

ICE Director John Morton said the position was created to ensure that public and immigration advocates understand various changes being made within the department and what the changes mean for those immigrants being jailed by immigration authorities or those facing deportation. Lorenzen-Strait will also address concerns about ICE enforcement involving U.S. citizens.

"We have undertaken a significant number of reforms from a policy perspective and we want to make sure they are evenly understood in the public and advocacy communities," Morton said Monday.

Lorenzen-Strait, a lawyer who has been an ICE adviser since 2008, said he sees his new job as being the facilitator "of a two-way dialogue." He will report to Gary Mead, ICE's head of enforcement and removal operations.

In recent months DHS has announced changes in the way authorities determine which illegal immigrants are deported.

In June, Morton outlined when agents and immigration prosecutors could use discretion in opting not to pursue a deportation case. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano went a step further in August when she announced the review of roughly 300,000 pending deportation cases as part of the department's efforts to focus its resources on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records, repeat immigration law offenders and those who pose a public safety or national security threat.

After a review of cases pending in Baltimore and Denver, DHS officials earlier this year recommended closing more than 1,600 deportation cases involving non-criminal illegal immigrants. The review is ongoing in other parts of the country.

Morton said Lorenzen-Strait will be responsible for helping the public understand the prosecutorial discretion policy and other changes as well as addressing complaints about the changes.

Congressional Republicans have been vocally opposed to the changes, at times calling the new discretion policy "backdoor amnesty."

On Tuesday, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith called Lorenzen-Strait's appointment "outrageous."

"The administration all too often acts more like a lobbying firm for illegal immigrants than as an advocate for the American people," the Texas Republican said in a statement. "This is just further proof that the Obama administration puts illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of Americans."

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