Lawless Judges, Immigrant Soldiers, and Deportee Pardons

Here’s the harsh truth about our immigration system: When 392,000 immigrants are detained per year and 33,000 more are detained everyday with limited staff and minimal federal oversight, institutional misconduct is inevitable.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is moving record-breaking numbers of immigrants through its ancillary agencies and, in the process, immigrant women are being raped by Border Patrol agents, LGBT detainees are being sexually assaulted at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, and citizens and legal residents are certainly being deported.

How can such things come to pass? Simple: a combination of overworked and overzealous officials are enforcing overly broad immigration laws. It should be no wonder that people, inevitably, slip through the cracks—whether immigrant, citizen, or soldier.

Immigration judges subverting the law

Misconduct, corruption and a general inability to handle impossibly high caseloads aren’t exclusive to DHS and its many agencies. On the contrary, organizational mismanagement plagues every aspect of the immigration process.

As Jacqueline Stevens reports at the Nation, immigration courts are rife with lawlessness and corruption. Charged with adjudicating the hundreds of thousands of immigrants thrown their way by DHS every year, judges are authorizing deportations without even seeing the defendants, issuing rulings at mass hearings (usually with no lawyers present), and abandoning due process for a quicker turn-around.

What’s more: the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)—a separate agency from DHS—is actively shielding this misconduct from the public and trying to avoid federal oversight:

The public’s ignorance of the idiocies endemic to the EOIR’s business as usual and the calamities these entail is no accident. The agency deliberately withholds basic information from the media and researchers, and its top officials routinely decline requests for interviews […] Complaints about immigration judges fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and people may file there directly, but the EOIR instructs immigration court stakeholders to lodge complaints with the EOIR itself. Instead of passing complaints on to the OPR, as the website promises, the EOIR top brass, to protect their cronies and avoid outside scrutiny, sweeps complaints under the rug.

Consequently, American citizens—as well as immigrants who could qualify to remain in the country—are being deported indiscriminately by judges whose decisions are rarely, if ever, questioned.

Immigrant soldiers deported after serving in the U.S. military

Immigrant soldiers serving in the U.S. military are among those routinely cheated by deportation-happy immigration judges.

Julianne Hing reports at ColorLines that 17,000 non-citizens are on active duty in the armed forces, and 4,000 immigrant veterans have already been deported or are facing deportation because of criminal convictions. Hing argues that, while some of those veterans are certainly guilty of violent crimes, many others have committed only minor crimes, like drug possession, and have already served time in jail. Deportation is a secondary, and wholly incommensurate, punishment.

A double standard is at play. Veterans, regardless of immigration status, are more likely than the general population to abuse drugs and alcohol and to commit violent crimes. But while non-citizen soldiers are indiscriminately deported for minor offenses, thousands of American military rapists have deftly avoided punishment in the past 15 years.The U.S. government’s prejudicial treatment of non-citizen soldiers isn’t new (to date, Filipino veterans who fought alongside American soldiers in WWII are still waiting to receive the benefits promised to them), but it remains reprehensible.

The unique plight of immigrant veterans certainly puts into perspective the ongoing push for passage of the DREAM Act—proposed legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant youth who serve in the military.

New York governor to pardon deportees?

Fortunately, some government officials are working towards a fairer immigration system. Elise Foley at the Washington Independent reports that New York governor David Paterson (D) has created a panel to review thousands of pardon requests from immigrant detainees awaiting deportation:

The idea behind the panel is to allow relief from the “extremely inflexible” federal law for green card holders “who have contributed as New Yorkers and who deserve relief from deportation or indefinite detention,” Paterson said when he announced its creation in May. […] While Paterson’s pardon panels would not change the way immigration courts are run, the effort is arguably a push to add a bit of discretion back into the system.

Paterson’s laudable commitment to protecting the interests of immigrants, particularly when doing so is far from politically expedient, is proof positive that rectifying our broken immigration system is entirely within the reach of our politicians. Misconduct and corruption within our immigration agencies are not merely the product of overcrowding and understaffing, but rather persistent inaction on the part of powerful lawmakers and government officials.

As Stevens wryly notes for The Nation: President Barack Obama, whose own citizenship is repeatedly questioned, ought to get on board.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. 

photo credit: thanks to Sam Howzit via flickr
by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger


Rooibos Bird
IE Ries7 years ago

"We should remember we are all immigrants here except for the native Americans."


No Homo sapiens originated on this continent, therefore every single human is an "immigrant" to this continent at some period in overall human history.

It just so happens that the immigration discussed in the article is during a time when all countries are recognized nation-states, and all have codified laws which succinctly govern what does and does not constitute legal immigration.

So, let's stay in the here and now, shall we? Because that's what we're really talking about - and not historical diversions to obscure an inconvenient truth.

Deborah Litster
Deborah Litster7 years ago

Oh God

Robert O.
Robert O7 years ago

The immigration system is in dire need of an an overhaul. The problem is nobody seems to want to incorporate any fairness or compassion into it. They just want sealed borders and mass deportations which is hateful and unrealistic. We should remember we are all immigrants here except for the native Americans. As for those that say nothing was stolen and that we all originated from Africa, we're not talking about where mankind started, we're talking about who was in America first. Don't try to build a smoke screen to detract from the issue. For those that keep saying they welcome immigrants with open arms, you forgot to mention that you will welcome them provided they are from European countries and nowhere else. Why can't anyone admit their racism? Many people already assume that all Mexican/Hispanic immigrants are bad people that steal jobs, come from countries with loose morals and are all involved in the drug trade and are lazy, stupid and uneducated. So how would their becoming legalized citizens make you suddenly like them when they've already been vilified and classified as human garbage? What people really mean to say is that if Hispanic immigrants become citizens they'd be hated less, but they'd still be hated and discriminated against. Wake up!

Junior W.
Junior Walker7 years ago

Cant wait to see the movie "bunch of immigrants take over a new land, beat and kill the be-Jesus out of the native Indians who had settled there before them, then in turn years later devise the most in-humane policies against immigrants that came after. There is a saying "God don't sleep", so let's remove the immigrant input from the economy that was relied on to become a superpower and to defend this status in the military and head over to China with collection plates.

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K7 years ago

Nobody can claim the world, or parts of it for their own exclusive use. Remember we are only transiting here to learn lessons of forgiveness to ourselves on what we have created for ourselves and when we can learn this and love and respect for ourselves then we can exercise compassion and hopefully leave this planet fully prepared so we don't have to return and can enjoy being awake with our creator.

Betty S.
Betty Straughan7 years ago

Why is Barrack Obama's citizenship questioned? Shouldn't that have been answered already, before he became President.
Is everyone slipping or what?

Zoraida Colon-collado
Zoraida colon7 years ago

Milagros works in a low cost nursing home as a health aid. She has held that job for over eight years, since she came here from Mexico. She has never missed day, never been late, never complained about working the night shift. Today she is feeding an old black man in the next bed. She smiles and talks to him in Spanish. He doesn't know what she is saying, but smiles back. She wipes his mouth and puts sugar in his coffee. She tells me no one ever comes to see him. Before that she followed the seasonal workers through from New York State to Florida,picking apples to strawberries. She has scars on her hands from the thorns. Her daughter is graduating high school in Mexico now, her mother wrote her. She shows a dog eared picture of a beautiful young woman. She has not seen her since she came. She won't go for the graduation, as she has no papers. Milagros lives with another family, in a small room with saints and crosses on the wall. There is a twin bed, swayed in the middle, a chair and a few boxes. This is all she owns. In the shared kitchen she prepares bean and egg tacos for her lunch. Sometimes she has tomatoes or fruit, and water with Kool Aid. She never eats out, as all the extra money goes home, to support her mother, daughter and two younger sisters. She pays taxes and Social Security but will never see either, as she works under a fake ID and number. Even at $3000.00, paying a coyote is cheaper than legal papers. When she goes home, she will stay forever.

Dirk De Lu
Dirk De Lu7 years ago

A vitally important piece so poorly written as to be confusing and useless. 392,000 per year, but 33,000 more per day? Simple math reveals the numbers to be incorrect.

Please, tighten up the writing and presentation of factual material. I think you have been overly influenced by Fox media standards.

Thank you for trying, I look forward to reading something intelligble and credible in future.

Monique R.
Monique R.7 years ago

Ruth and on. All these "poor meeees", we are so tired of all that nonsense. Go back and make your own country workable. If they put all the effort into their own
country they can stay out of ours [and our jails] they are costing this country a fortune! [The illegal ones]

ruth a.
ruth a7 years ago

Hang on, I just skimmed this article, but it sounds like we should consider treating non-citizens the same way we treat 'real Americans'? What if we turned this sentence around...Let's consider treating Americans the same way we treat non-citizens!