More Double Punishment for Immigrants with Convictions

More Double Punishment for Immigrants with Convictions

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The Obama administration’s Aug. 18 announcement of a new policy that purports to suspend deportations against immigrants without criminal convictions has sprouted a range of reactions from immigrant rights advocates, from full-fledged celebration to wary suspicion.

I can appreciate why some advocates are praising the announcement. First, it does seem true that the national outcry over the failure of immigration reform and the expansion of the deportation program known as “Secure Communities” – which requires police to share fingerprint data of all arrestees with federal immigration authorities -- has prompted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to respond with this “new” policy. It’s worth noting, however, that advocates have long sought to get ICE to actually exercise the discretionary powers it has always held. Second, fewer deportations is certainly a good thing. To the extent that this announcement can actually help the small percentage of people who could qualify for a temporary reprieve from deportation, I share the temporary sense of relief of these immigrants. No family should know the devastation of deportation.

But as a lead organizer of the coalition that got New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pull the state out of the Secure Communities program, I also have seen how much ICE employs divide-and-conquer tactics, engages in manipulative practices and flip-flops back and forth without ever acknowledging its previous position. A federal judge overseeing a public records lawsuit against ICE recently chided the agency for going “out of [its] way to mislead the public” about whether counties and states could opt out of the program; ICE itself has copped to having “a messaging problem.”

So I remain highly skeptical about the potential of this announcement. ICE’s failure to revise its removal quotas – 404,000 this year alone – can only mean that its deportation dragnet will remain just as active. How else can ICE and its private prison industry bedfellows keep detention centers filled?

Call me a cynic, but this move also seems more of a token of appeasement to win votes in the 2012 election than any meaningful shot at reform. Having failed to push through legislation that would allow for the legalization of undocumented youth – much less any other attempt at immigration reform – the administration is terrified of losing the support of Latinos and other groups. Perhaps by throwing a bone to important voting blocs, Obama thinks nobody will notice that ICE has so far kept silent about how this “policy” will be implemented. So far, none of us know how immigrants are supposed to now qualify for work permits or how ICE will conduct case reviews. Even more alarming, many immigrants now mistakenly think they can now get a green card by turning themselves in.

Finally, this announcement just isn’t what many of us have asked for. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. In New York, our coalition has vociferously called for the protection of all immigrants, not just those who can be deemed innocent or low priority. That’s why we continue to firmly object to the targeting of people with criminal convictions.

This position might fly in the face of conventional wisdom about who should and should not be deported. But we cannot accept that people with criminal convictions should be so easily tossed out of our country. They’ve already paid their dues in a criminal justice system that seldomly lives up to its promise of fairness and equality – particularly for those from low-income, ethnic, and immigrant communities.

They don’t deserve a harsh second punishment of permanent exile, particularly through a patently broken and unjust regime that often makes deportation a mandatory minimum and fails to afford immigrants a fair day in court.

Perhaps most importantly, people with criminal convictions still belong with their families and communities, no matter what.

Take, as just one example, a friend of mine who requested that his name not be used. In the fallout of last week’s announcement, he was detained on Monday and put on a plane to Guyana the next night. A long-time green card holder, he served as the primary caretaker for his mother, who has severe diabetes and who requires constant care. His entire family – all U.S. citizens – lives here in this country. He knows no life in Guyana.

But he has an armed robbery conviction from about 15 years ago. And so he was ICE’s first priority for deportation.

I’m pretty certain that, given its announcement, ICE felt that it had even less reason to listen to pleas to stop my friend’s deportation. In the weeks and months and years to come, more and more people like him will get thrown into the deportation machinery, as few object to – and many applaud – ICE’s new policy rather than question why our country so quickly resorts to deporting immigrants who make the same mistakes we all do.

That so many seem to regard the deportation of people with convictions as a desired goal angers and saddens me. But there are those of us who care about all people dealing with deportation, including those with criminal convictions. We care about them proudly and profoundly. And targeting people with convictions for deportation is something we can never be OK with.

For now, our only solace is to commit to continuing to fight hard alongside them and their families for a better future for us all.

Michelle Fei is co-director of the Immigrant Defense Project and member of the New York State Working Group Against Deportation. IMMIGRATION MATTERS features the views of immigration advocates and experts.




 

Comments

 
Ironweed

Posted Aug 30 2011

God help us because our government has turned against the citizens of this country. I'd like to shove Obama up his drunken, illegal uncle's arse before the old thief is deported.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

A very interesting viewpoint and a good story to illustrate.

However, I don't agree with this statement: "why our country so quickly resorts to deporting immigrants who make the same mistakes we all do." First of all, I'm pretty sure the majority of citizens in this country have never committed armed robbery. If your friend had been deported after getting pulled over for a burnt out tail light, then it would be less of an exaggeration to say he made the same mistake we "all" do. What I will say is that it's unfair for the justice system to administer a greater punishment (deportation) to an illegal immigrant than they would to a citizen or legal resident. Same crime, should mean same punishment.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

A very interesting viewpoint and a good story to illustrate.

However, I don't agree with this statement: "why our country so quickly resorts to deporting immigrants who make the same mistakes we all do." First of all, I'm pretty sure the majority of citizens in this country have never committed armed robbery. If your friend had been deported after getting pulled over for a burnt out tail light, then it would be less of an exaggeration to say he made the same mistake we "all" do. What I will say is that it's unfair for the justice system to administer a greater punishment (deportation) to an illegal immigrant than they would to a citizen or legal resident. Same crime, should mean same punishment.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

I completely agree with you.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

Ship them home and let them prey on their own countrymen, not me.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

What a flawed opinion you have, that criminal immigrants do not deserve to be sent back to their country of origin. Yes, we all make mistakes, but armed robbery is not the kind of mistake that should be taken lightly, and it is insulting to citizens and legal residents that you would so willingly lump as together with criminal immigrants under the guise of, "we all make mistakes". Though no one is perfect, the vast majority of us are not running around committing armed robbery.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

What part of ILLEGAL do you not understand?

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

I am as liberal as you get when it comes to most major issues that affect this country, including my views on immigration, wether it be legal or illegal. I support the dream act, and i support an earned path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants. However, after reading this article, the author infuriates me with her arrogant and unrealistic demands that criminal immigrants, wether or not they are here legally, should not be deported. Your criminal immigrant friend got just what he deserved, as would be expected after committing ARMED ROBBERY, however long ago it was. In your extremely flawed and biased opinion, felons, thieves, murderers, and rapists should simply serve their time and be released back into the public, regardless of their immigration status. I might be a liberal, but you are soo far to the left that you have completely fallen of the edge with this asinine opinion.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

Michelle,
I would be interested to know something very simple. Lets say that your coalition is successful nationwide in implementing your agenda, protecting all immigrants and ceasing deportation. What then? By using your methodology there are no consequences for bad behavior for “guests” in the US, because if you are not a US citizen, you are a guest. Would you or your coalition also rally to protect the immigrants who are convicted pedophiles, rapists, murderers or guilty of genocide?

“Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. While King reports 12 Americans are murdered daily by illegal aliens, he says 13 are killed by drunk illegal alien drivers.”

“On September 1, 2002, illegal alien Maximiliano Cilerio Esparza, 32, attacked, beat and sexually assaulted two Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns in Klamath Falls, Oregon, killing one, Sister Helen Chaska, 53, who was strangled to death with her rosary beads”

“Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox was gunned down about 1 a.m., during a traffic stop a mile east of Delta. Her body was found by a second deputy, who was responding to a request for backup. Fix, a mother of two, had been with the Millard County Sheriff’s Department five years. Illegal alien Roberto Miramontes Roman, has been previously arrested for theft charges and has been previously deported from the United States as an illegal immigrant.”

It is unfortunate that you and people like you won’t dedicate your efforts to more worthy causes such as our military men & women, homeless veterans, out-of-work US citizens, poverty stricken US citizens, the handicapped, or maybe the ASPCA.
How do you think the immigrants, who paid the fees, waited in lines and obeyed US law to become green card holders, feel about those who broke immigration law and continue to do so on the hope that the President approves an amnesty?
I feel sorry for you and hope that one day you will have the ability to see more clearly that life and people are not as simplistic as the ACLU, La Raza, CAIR, and all of the other pro-immigration and anti-border groups would have you believe.
God bless America!

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

Michelle,
I would be interested to know something very simple. Lets say that your coalition is successful nationwide in implementing your agenda, protecting all immigrants and ceasing deportation. What then? By using your methodology there are no consequences for bad behavior for “guests” in the US, because if you are not a US citizen, you are a guest. Would you or your coalition also rally to protect the immigrants who are convicted pedophiles, rapists, murderers or guilty of genocide?

“Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. While King reports 12 Americans are murdered daily by illegal aliens, he says 13 are killed by drunk illegal alien drivers.”

“On September 1, 2002, illegal alien Maximiliano Cilerio Esparza, 32, attacked, beat and sexually assaulted two Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns in Klamath Falls, Oregon, killing one, Sister Helen Chaska, 53, who was strangled to death with her rosary beads”

“Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox was gunned down about 1 a.m., during a traffic stop a mile east of Delta. Her body was found by a second deputy, who was responding to a request for backup. Fix, a mother of two, had been with the Millard County Sheriff’s Department five years. Illegal alien Roberto Miramontes Roman, has been previously arrested for theft charges and has been previously deported from the United States as an illegal immigrant.”

It is unfortunate that you and people like you won’t dedicate your efforts to more worthy causes such as our military men & women, homeless veterans, out-of-work US citizens, poverty stricken US citizens, the handicapped, or maybe the ASPCA.
How do you think the immigrants, who paid the fees, waited in lines and obeyed US law to become green card holders, feel about those who broke immigration law and continue to do so on the hope that the President approves an amnesty?
I feel sorry for you and hope that one day you will have the ability to see more clearly that life and people are not as simplistic as the ACLU, La Raza, CAIR, and all of the other pro-immigration and anti-border groups would have you believe.
God bless America!

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

Michelle,
I would be interested to know something very simple. Lets say that your coalition is successful nationwide in implementing your agenda, protecting all immigrants and ceasing deportation. What then? By using your methodology there are no consequences for bad behavior for “guests” in the US, because if you are not a US citizen, you are a guest. Would you or your coalition also rally to protect the immigrants who are convicted pedophiles, rapists, murderers or guilty of genocide?

“Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. While King reports 12 Americans are murdered daily by illegal aliens, he says 13 are killed by drunk illegal alien drivers.”

“On September 1, 2002, illegal alien Maximiliano Cilerio Esparza, 32, attacked, beat and sexually assaulted two Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns in Klamath Falls, Oregon, killing one, Sister Helen Chaska, 53, who was strangled to death with her rosary beads”

“Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox was gunned down about 1 a.m., during a traffic stop a mile east of Delta. Her body was found by a second deputy, who was responding to a request for backup. Fix, a mother of two, had been with the Millard County Sheriff’s Department five years. Illegal alien Roberto Miramontes Roman, has been previously arrested for theft charges and has been previously deported from the United States as an illegal immigrant.”

It is unfortunate that you and people like you won’t dedicate your efforts to more worthy causes such as our military men & women, homeless veterans, out-of-work US citizens, poverty stricken US citizens, the handicapped, or maybe the ASPCA.
How do you think the immigrants, who paid the fees, waited in lines and obeyed US law to become green card holders, feel about those who broke immigration law and continue to do so on the hope that the President approves an amnesty?
I feel sorry for you and hope that one day you will have the ability to see more clearly that life and people are not as simplistic as the ACLU, La Raza, CAIR, and all of the other pro-immigration and anti-border groups would have you believe.
God bless America!

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

Michelle,
I would be interested to know something very simple. Lets say that your coalition is successful nationwide in implementing your agenda, protecting all immigrants and ceasing deportation. What then? By using your methodology there are no consequences for bad behavior for “guests” in the US, because if you are not a US citizen, you are a guest. Would you or your coalition also rally to protect the immigrants who are convicted pedophiles, rapists, murderers or guilty of genocide?

“Twelve Americans are murdered every day by illegal aliens, according to statistics released by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If those numbers are correct, it translates to 4,380 Americans murdered annually by illegal aliens. While King reports 12 Americans are murdered daily by illegal aliens, he says 13 are killed by drunk illegal alien drivers.”

“On September 1, 2002, illegal alien Maximiliano Cilerio Esparza, 32, attacked, beat and sexually assaulted two Immaculate Heart of Mary nuns in Klamath Falls, Oregon, killing one, Sister Helen Chaska, 53, who was strangled to death with her rosary beads”

“Deputy Josie Greathouse Fox was gunned down about 1 a.m., during a traffic stop a mile east of Delta. Her body was found by a second deputy, who was responding to a request for backup. Fix, a mother of two, had been with the Millard County Sheriff’s Department five years. Illegal alien Roberto Miramontes Roman, has been previously arrested for theft charges and has been previously deported from the United States as an illegal immigrant.”

It is unfortunate that you and people like you won’t dedicate your efforts to more worthy causes such as our military men & women, homeless veterans, out-of-work US citizens, poverty stricken US citizens, the handicapped, or maybe the ASPCA.
How do you think the immigrants, who paid the fees, waited in lines and obeyed US law to become green card holders, feel about those who broke immigration law and continue to do so on the hope that the President approves an amnesty?
I feel sorry for you and hope that one day you will have the ability to see more clearly that life and people are not as simplistic as the ACLU, La Raza, CAIR, and all of the other pro-immigration and anti-border groups would have you believe.
God bless America!

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

All people deserve basic human rights including due process and family unification, most often denied by both the immigration and criminal justice systems. Experts support that the criminal justice system is racially biased and broken - we know the same of the immigration system. The truth is that when we throw people with criminal convictions under the bus - we find that we have gone with them as our rights and values have also been eroded. We are having conversations about how to marginalize people, not about how to fix things. When can our Immigration conversations be about globalization, US foreign policy and finding humane solutions?

Anonymous

Posted Aug 30 2011

The tone of these comments are saddening. I am also a friend and of the mentioned PERSON that was deported. The virulence of these comments take no account that we are speaking about A PERSON, no a criminal. He committed a crime 15 YEARS AGO...1 1/2 decades ago. Malcolm X committed armed robbery and served 7 years in prison. Do we still consider him a criminal? We have to be careful to make assumptions of people as if they are abstract issues only.

The issue of undocumented persons who were convicted of a crime fails to consider the debt served through incarceration. Are all formerly incarcerated persons incorrigible...incapable of redemption? These undocumented people are family members, employers and employees...taxpayers, citizens. They are parents of babies and sons of mothers and fathers. They are people.

Lastly, to use the worse cases of people who are undocumented that committed heinous crimes is no different than proponents of the death penalty using the worse case to convince that the death penalty is necessary, even though there is no empirical data that shows the death penalty to be an effective deterrent.

One more thing, we can disagree, but please use some tact and decency when talking about my friend who is no different from the person next to you, except for a bad decision over 15 years ago.

Marlon, FFF member and PERSON

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

I agree that we all make mistakes is correct. We have a system set up to punish and deter criminals from offending again. You do the crime and you do the time. Immigrants on the other hand are punished 3 fold: first they must serve the time in criminal jail or prison for their crime; next they spend an INDEFINITE ammount of time in an immigration detention facility with no knowledge of their release or more often, deportation date; then they are deported from this country and their families are often left behind to fare on their own. What about the effect of a mother or father's deportation has on the family? If you feel nothing for the immigrant, do you feel anything for their children, who are often US citizens and now has lost a parent?

Although I disagree with the idea that all immigrants who commit crimes must go, I understand that this is probably the majority view. I urge people who have such sweeping notions of "justice" to see for yourself what enforcement and removal operations in this country really do to families. If you ever interacted with someone going through this process, you may look at the issue entirely differently.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

I was deported two years ago away from my family ( 4 US citizen children and my wife) They now live in the US struggling very hard to make ends meet. They live through the winters with out any heat cause they cant afford to pay the gas bill. They can barely provide food. I was deported for a 17 year old crime of stealing a car which I did 6 months in the county jail for (1993) I turned my life around and even opened my own business and hired over 5 employees. My wife didnt work as she was a house wife a job in it self. I was out working to ensure they had a good life and that the bills are paid. I was a green card holder for over 25 years. My kids can barely go to school, the oldest have dropped out because its so hard for him, no clothes or heat in the winter or sometimes no food. She cant find work and welfare can barely do it. Now you think every one should be deported for small crimes and leaving their families to suffer? Not every one deserves to be deported. The system needs to be fixed and be fixed NOW. Ice has been deporting people who should not be deported even deporting people to the wrong countries.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

I am a US citizen and I think that what ICE and Obama is doing wrong to many of these immigrants is wrong, especially to the ones who have families here and who had green cards. you need to have the green card holders who were deported and who are not a danger to society return and take care of their families.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

Michelle:
" . . .immigrants who make the same mistakes we *all* do"??? So you are admitting that you are a felon? I, for at least one, am not. Foreign criminals have already have a home . . . in their countries of origin.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

Thank you, Michelle, for a truly sound analysis of what this new policy actually means for our communities. And for those who constantly berate us with the question: what part of "illegal" don't you understand? I ask YOU: What part of humanity and human rights don't You understand?

It makes sense that people are genuinely afraid of any mention of crime or "criminals", given that this country is a global leader in incarcerating people as well as criminalizing them so that more and more people are burdened with a criminal record- with a disproportionate impact on communities of color- i think that's no secret. But to say that deporting someone for a crime they committed over a decade ago, just because he was born outside this country is preposterous and absurd, not to mention senseless and just plain cruel.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

Can't a person redeem himself? This is not only addressing undocumented people or people in mixed status it is affecting people who are Permanent Residents. People with none violent offenses like possession of low amounts of drugs. If they have served their time and are rehabilitated why should they be deported? What is the point of having state judicial system that dishes out a punishment. I am not advocating for violent criminals to stay but if this is an offense that happened years ago, the person has served their time and has not had an offense since why does immigration need to get involved? U.S Veterans are being deported because of minor convictions. This is how we treat people who have fought for our freedom? Kick them out because they want to smoke weed or are exhibiting symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder? IMO minor, none violent convictions (traffic, drug etc..) should not even be an issue especially if the person has completed their punishment and is rehabilitated.

San Francisco De Asis

Posted Aug 31 2011

Thanks Michelle! Many Blessings for your courage to say what you have said! You are like San Francisco De Asis! Your love for your neighbor validates the "Prayer of Our Father"

San Francisco De Asis

Posted Aug 31 2011

Thanks Michelle! Many Blessings for your courage to say what you have said! You are like San Francisco De Asis! Your love for your neighbor validates the "Prayer of Our Father"

San Francisco De Asis

Posted Aug 31 2011

Thanks Michelle! Many Blessings for your courage to say what you have said! You are like San Francisco De Asis! Your love for your neighbor validates the "Prayer of Our Father"

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

Immigration is a serious issue. Most of us are immigrant-backgrounded. Our parents, ancestors came to escape or start a new life, based on a better, possibly more ethical government, unless of course we came as slaves. Nonetheless, we need to work through the problems of the undocumented in a civilized and caring manner, not acting as if we were low-lives using silly language and guilt by association.

Secure communities are making our communities less secure. Let's care about people and find ways to put people into a normalized situation.

Anonymous

Posted Aug 31 2011

Immigration is a serious issue. Most of us are immigrant-backgrounded. Our parents, ancestors came to escape or start a new life, based on a better, possibly more ethical government, unless of course we came as slaves. Nonetheless, we need to work through the problems of the undocumented in a civilized and caring manner, not acting as if we were low-lives using silly language and guilt by association.

Secure communities are making our communities less secure. Let's care about people and find ways to put people into a normalized situation.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 1 2011

that is why this country is heading in the direction its going in now. You removed decent people who were running businesses and taking care of their families and for what? because they had a crime 20 or 40 years before or because they had a dui? This country stinks for doing what it has done to people. Now we have all these kids with out a mother or a father or even both. The US should be a shame of whats going on here. Not everyone deserves to be deported especially after serving their time. How are you gonna deport people for traffic violations and take them away from their families? I am a US citizen and Michelle you just suck ASS.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 1 2011

If you think this country stinks, GO HOME!

Anonymous

Posted Sep 2 2011

I THINK THE COUNTRY STINKS, BUT I CANT LEAVE CAUSE I AM A US CITIZEN.

Anonymous

Posted Sep 2 2011

I'm OK with targeting people with convictions for deportations. Let them commit crimes on their own countrymen. Not me and mine.

Anonymous

Posted Dec 3 2011

I agree! Way to open eyes to true justice. The dominant narrative is cruel and misguided. Michelle Fei for president! Seriously, amazing piece.

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