Washington (CNSNews.com) - Cecilia Munoz, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs, compared the federal crime of being in the country illegally to jaywalking.
"If you were running the police department of any urban area in this country, you would spend more resources going after serious criminals than after jaywalkers. DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) is doing the immigration equivalent of the same thing," Munoz told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) conference on Monday.
Munoz was referring to the administration's new policy of "prosecutorial discretion," outlined in a June memo from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which falls under DHS.
Under the new policy, immigration officials will prioritize deportation orders, acting only on those involving people convicted of serious crimes or those who pose a national security or public safety threat.
The memo also directs ICE agents to consider how long an individual has been in the U.S., whether that person has a spouse or children who are U.S. citizens, and whether that person has a serious criminal record. Crimes victims, witnesses to crimes, or people who are charged with minor traffic violations, would avoid deportation under the ICE guidance.
Munoz said the administration is acting within its authority - "but we also all understand that even as we use our administrative authority, make the right enforcement judgments, it is not the permanent solution for anybody, it doesn't solve our immigration problems. In order to do that, we need the Congress of the United States."
Munoz also indicated that the administration's new "discretion" policy is part of a "progression" of "work that's been going on for several years."
"We have 10 million, 11 million undocumented people in this country and it's abundantly clear to anybody who's paying attention that we're not going to deport that entire population," said Munoz.
"It's not humanly possible. It's ridiculously expensive...and so what DHS is doing for the first time is trying to have a strategy around the law-enforcement work that it does, and so while it's enforcing the law vigorously, as [Congressman Luis Gutierrez] points out, it's also making strategic judgments about who is a priority for enforcement and who isn't."
At the same conference, Rep. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) thanked President Obama for by passing Congress when it comes to immigration.