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A federal appeals court has put the Obama administration's new immigration directive to the test by halting the deportation of seven immigrants alleged to be in the country illegally.

In a 2-1 ruling on Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals demanded the Obama administration explain whether the immigrants can avoid deportation because of two memos released last year by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton urging prosecutors to use "discretion" when deciding whether to pursue immigration cases.

Morton's initial memo in June said prosecutors should take into account such factors as U.S. military service, criminal records, family ties and length of stay in the country when deciding whether to start formal deportation proceedings against undocumented immigrants. He issued another in November explaining further how to implement the guidelines.

Since then, though, immigration advocates and lawyers have been complaining that prosecutors have been too slow to call off deportation proceedings of immigrants meeting the criteria. The advocates view the appeals court's rulings as a call to action.



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