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No Action Taken: Lack of CBP Accountability in Responding to Complaints of Abuse

Data obtained by the American Immigration Council shine a light on the lack of accountability and transparency which afflicts the U.S. Border Patrol and its parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The data, which the Immigration Council acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, covers 809 complaints of alleged abuse lodged against Border Patrol agents between January 2009 and January 2012. These cases run the gamut of physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. Although it is not possible to determine which cases had merit and which did not, it is astonishing that, among those cases in which a formal decision was issued, 97 percent resulted in “No Action Taken.” On average, CBP took 122 days to arrive at a decision when one was made. Moreover, among all complaints, 40 percent were still “pending investigation” when the complaint data were provided to the Immigration Council.Read more...

Published On: Sun, May 04, 2014

Removal Without Recourse: The Growth of Summary Deportations from the United States

The deportation process has been transformed drastically over the last two decades. Today, two-thirds of individuals deported are subject to what are known as “summary removal procedures,” which deprive them of both the right to appear before a judge and the right to apply for status in the United States. In 1996, as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), Congress established streamlined deportation procedures that allow the government to deport (or “remove”) certain noncitizens from the United States without a hearing before an immigration judge. Two of these procedures, “expedited removal” and “reinstatement of removal,” allow immigration officers to serve as both prosecutor and judge—often investigating, charging, and making a decision all within the course of one day. These rapid deportation decisions often fail to take into account many critical factors, including whether the individual is eligible to apply for lawful status in the United States, whether he or she has long-standing ties here, or whether he or she has U.S.-citizen family members.

In recent years, summary procedures have eclipsed traditional immigration court proceedings, accounting for the dramatic increase in removals overall. As the chart below demonstrates, since 1996, the number of deportations executed under summary removal procedures—including expedited removal, reinstatement of removal, and stipulated removal (all described below)—has dramatically increased.

 

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, more than 70 percent of all people Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported were subject to summary removal procedures.

Expedited Removal (INA § 235(b)) Read more...

Published On: Mon, Apr 28, 2014 | Download File

The Growth of the U.S. Deportation Machine

More Immigrants are being “Removed” from the United States than Ever Before

Despite some highly public claims to the contrary, there has been no waning of immigration enforcement in the United States. In fact, the U.S. deportation machine has grown larger in recent years, indiscriminately consuming criminals and non-criminals alike, be they unauthorized immigrants or long-time legal permanent residents (LPRs). Deportations under the Obama administration alone are now approaching the two-million mark. But the deportation frenzy began long before this milestone. The federal government has, for nearly two decades, been pursuing an enforcement-first approach to immigration control that favors mandatory detention and deportation over the traditional discretion of a judge to consider the unique circumstances of every case. The end result has been a relentless campaign of imprisonment and expulsion aimed at noncitizens—a campaign authorized by Congress and implemented by the executive branch. While this campaign precedes the Obama administration by many years, it has grown immensely during his tenure in the White House. In part, this is the result of laws which have put the expansion of deportations on automatic. But the continued growth of deportations also reflects the policy choices of the Obama administration. Rather than putting the brakes on this non-stop drive to deport more and more people, the administration chose to add fuel to the fire.

IRCA and the New Era of DeportationsRead more...

Published On: Wed, Apr 09, 2014 | Download File

Misplaced Priorities: Most Immigrants Deported by ICE in 2013 Were a Threat to No One

No one can say with certainty when the Obama administration will reach the grim milestone of having deported two million people since the President took office in 2008. Regardless of the exact date this symbolic threshold is reached, however, it is important to keep in mind a much more important fact: most of the people being deported are not dangerous criminals. Despite claims by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that it prioritizes the apprehension of terrorists, violent criminals, and gang members, the agency’s own deportation statistics do not bear this out. Rather, most of the individuals being swept up by ICE and dropped into the U.S. deportation machine committed relatively minor, non-violent crimes or have no criminal histories at all. Ironically, many of the immigrants being deported would likely have been able to remain in the country had the immigration reform legislation favored by the administration become law.

ICE’s skewed priorities are apparent from the agency’s most recent deportation statistics, which cover Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. However, it takes a little digging to discern exactly what those statistics mean. The ICE report containing these numbers is filled with ominous yet cryptic references to “convicted criminals” who are “Level 1,” “Level 2,” or “Level 3” in terms of their priority. But when those terms are dissected and analyzed, it quickly becomes apparent that most of these “criminal aliens” are not exactly the “worst of the worst.”

The agency defines three “priorities for the apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens”:Read more...

Published On: Fri, Mar 28, 2014 | Download File

The Faulty Legal Arguments Behind Immigration Detainers

By Christopher Lasch, Esq.

In late June 2012, the Supreme Court struck down three provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 and left a fourth vulnerable to future legal challenge. As has been well documented, the Court’s rejection of SB 1070 tipped the balance in favor of federal enforcement and away from state and local enforcement of the immigration laws. But this essay explores a less obvious consequence of the Court’s decision: its implications for the viability of a critical federal enforcement mechanism: the immigration “detainer.”

An immigration detainer is a piece of paper that federal immigration officials send to state and local jails requesting that they continue holding an individual for up to 48 business hours after he or she would otherwise be released, so that agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can investigate the person’s status and assume custody if necessary. Also known as immigration “holds,” detainers are the key enforcement mechanism behind federal enforcement initiatives like the Criminal Alien Program and Secure Communities.

There has been considerable confusion as to whether a detainer is a mere request that ICE be notified of a suspected immigration violator’s impending release, or a command by ICE that state or local officials hold a prisoner for ICE beyond the time the prisoner would otherwise be released. Independent of that question, however, the Court’s decision in Arizona v. United States identifies a more fundamental problem: that detainers may violate the Constitution and federal statutes even when honored on a voluntary basis.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Dec 18, 2013 | Download File

Bordering on Criminal: The Routine Abuse of Migrants in the Removal System

This three-part series highlights the findings of the Migrant Border Crossing Study—a binational, multi-institution study of 1,110 randomly selected, recently repatriated migrants surveyed in six Mexican cities between 2009 and 2012. The study exposes widespread mistreatment of migrants at the hands of U.S. officials in the removal system.

Part I: Migrant Mistreatment While in U.S. Custody

This report focuses on the mistreatment of unauthorized migrants while in U.S. custody. Overall, we find that the physical and verbal mistreatment of migrants is not a random, sporadic occurrence but, rather, a systematic practice. One indication of this is that 11% of deportees report some form of physical abuse and 23% report verbal mistreatment while in U.S. custody—a finding that is supported by other academic studies and reports from non-governmental organizations. Another highly disturbing finding is that migrants often note they are the targets for nationalistic and racist remarks—something that in no way is integral to U.S. officials’ ability to function in an effective capacity on a day-to-day basis. Read more...

Published On: Tue, Dec 10, 2013

The Cost of Doing Nothing

Dollars, Lives, and Opportunities Lost in the Wait for Immigration Reform

Immigration reform is a topic that has been heavily debated in Congress over the past year. While that debate led to passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate (S. 744), the leadership of the House of Representatives has yet to put immigration legislation on the floor. This state of affairs is fine with those congressional representatives who seem to think that merely talking about immigration is enough. And if Congress were a debating society, perhaps talking would be sufficient. But Congress is entrusted with a far greater responsibility: passing laws that matter. This is particularly true in the case of immigration reform, which has such enormous humanitarian and economic implications. Further delay on immigration reform, especially when there is broad public support for reform, wastes not just time, but money and lives as well.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Sep 23, 2013 | Download File

Cracking the SAFE Act

Understanding the Impact and Context of H.R. 2278, the “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act”

On June 6, 2013, the House Judiciary Committee considered H.R. 2278, the “Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act,” commonly known as the SAFE Act. This wide-ranging immigration enforcement bill would make unlawful presence in the United States a criminal act punishable with jail time, greatly expand detention of immigrants, authorize states and local governments to create their own immigration enforcement laws, and impose harsher penalties and restrictions for immigration violations, among other enforcement-related provisions. The bill, introduced by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), was the subject of a contentious committee mark up, ending in its passage out of committee on a straight party line vote of 20 to 15. The SAFE Act is one of several bills that the House leadership might offer as part of its “step-by-step” approach to immigration reform, in which various House bills addressing different aspects of the immigration system may be voted on separately.Read more...

Published On: Mon, Sep 16, 2013 | Download File

The Criminal Alien Program (CAP): Immigration Enforcement in Prisons and Jails

The Criminal Alien Program (CAP) is an expansive immigration enforcement program that leads to the initiation of removal proceedings in many cases. While CAP has existed in one form or another for decades, there is still much to be learned about the program, how it is organized, and how it works. What is known is that CAP extends to every area of the country and intersects with most state and local law enforcement agencies.

For years, the CAP program has operated with little public attention and many of its elements have only recently come to light following FOIA litigation against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The information obtained through the lawsuit regarding CAP’s current organization and staffing suggests CAP is not a single program, but a loose-knit group of several different programs operating within ICE. Other than a small number of staff responsible for the administration of CAP at ICE headquarters, there is no dedicated CAP staff. Rather, ICE pulls personnel and resources from across the agency to perform CAP-related functions.  

The ICE declarations and deposition also explain how CAP functions within prisons and jails. There appears to be little consistency in, and little or no policy governing, how CAP cooperates with state and local law enforcement agencies in different regions and in how CAP interacts with detainees in different facilities. Instead, CAP appears to function as an ad hoc set of activities that operate differently across the country and across penal institutions, raising questions about the adequacy of oversight, training, and accountability of the personnel implementing CAP.

This information confirms that there is still much about CAP that remains unknown or unclear.  Given the breadth of CAP, the centrality of its role in immigration enforcement, and its large impact on the immigrant community, it is critical that ICE clarify how CAP operates.Read more...

Published On: Thu, Aug 01, 2013 | Download File

The Fallacy of "Enforcement First"

Immigration Enforcement Without Immigration Reform Has Been Failing for Decades

Opponents of a new legalization program for unauthorized immigrants living and working in the United States frequently claim that we must try “enforcement first.” That is to say, we must adequately enforce the laws on the books before we can contemplate the formulation of more reasonable laws. This stance is nonsensical for two reasons. First of all, it ignores the fact that the unworkable nature of our immigration laws is itself facilitating unauthorized immigration; so it is illogical to hope that stronger enforcement of those unworkable laws will somehow lessen unauthorized immigration. Secondly, the “enforcement first” perspective conveniently overlooks the fact that the United States has been pursuing an “enforcement first” approach to immigration control for more than two-and-a-half decades—and it has yet to work.Read more...

Published On: Thu, May 09, 2013 | Download File