New emphasis is being placed on the deportation of illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds, as seen with laws such as the Secure Communities Program. These initiatives may sound like positive steps towards lowering the crime rate, but they can actually entangle U.S. citizens – who are sometimes racially profiled – in illegitimate deportation cases.
Many of these directives are coming from the federal level, and state or local law enforcement partners with the appropriate agency to enforce the directive. One such directive was initiated by the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, asking prosecutors in deportation cases to take things such as U.S. military service, family ties and criminal record into account when deciding whether to proceed with a case.
This directive has led to the temporary halt of five deportation cases that involve seven immigrants, a ruling that came down by a federal appeals court in San Francisco this week. None of the defendants had a criminal record, and they seemed to fit the ICE director’s initiative. Their cases will resume in March.
One element of deportation programs or initiatives like this that can be overlooked is the intermittent or sporadic application of the laws depending on the location. A survey conducted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association found that enforcement procedures varied across all 28 of ICE’s offices.
This creates confusion for defendants and their attorneys, and it hurts immigrants from putting together an effective defense when their cases go to trial. Deportation is a serious and controversial matter, so when the guidelines for how immigration laws are applied are blurred, it causes misunderstanding. If you find yourself in an uncertain situation regarding immigration or deportation, consult an experienced lawyer so you can have your questions answered and your concerns resolved.
Source: Washington Post, “Fed appeals court halts deportation of 7 immigrants, puts new immigration directive to test,” Feb. 8, 2012