Why We Need to Stop Deportations Now

As a floundering Congress repeatedly impedes the passage of widely supported immigration measures like the DREAM Act, reform advocates are refocusing their efforts and calling on President Barack Obama to declare a moratorium on deportations.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), whose impassioned support of immigrant rights landed him in jail earlier this year, is at the forefront of that charge, reports Braden Goyette at Campus Progress. Joining a chorus of immigration reform groups, Gutierrez is asking for moratorium: “The President will tell us we need Republican votes in order to pass legislation, and he’s correct,” Gutierrez told a raucous crowd of New York immigrants last month. “But let me tell you something. With the executive stroke of that pen, he can stop the deportation and the destruction of our families.”

The deportation dragnet

The administration’s amped up efforts to detain and deport greater numbers of undocumented immigrants is understandably contentious among immigrant rights advocates. As Goyette notes, at least 6.6 million mixed-status families stand to be directly affected by increased immigration enforcement, and nearly 100,000 citizen children have already seen their parents—lawful permanent residents—deported by the government.

To make matters worse, individuals are being deported without demonstrable regard for clean records, mitigating circumstances or even legal residency, in spite of the administration’s assurances to the contrary. Alina Das, a fellow at NYU’s immigration law clinic who was interviewed by Goyette, sums it up this way:

“Once you’re in the system it often does not matter if you’ve lived here since childhood, if you worked and paid taxes your entire life, if you gave back to the community and served in the military. The laws are so draconian that immigration judges are not able to consider these factors in many cases.”

ICE under fire for netting innocents

The legal system’s rigidity is further exacerbated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s questionable practices, which have resulted in the unlawful detention and deportations of scores of immigrants. The consequences of ICE’s overreliance on local law enforcement and its apparently indiscriminate tagging of undocumented immigrants are making headlines and raising prominent eyebrows.

The Filipino Express, via New America Media, reports that immigration courts are rejecting 31 percent of deportation cases filed by ICE—a six-point increase since 2009. In larger cities, the rejection rate is as high as 70 percent, suggesting that ICE is increasingly detaining and processing people who have just cause to remain in the country.

ICE’s credibility on the matter has deteriorated so much that last week a federal judge ordered the agency to release previously withheld documents related to a controversial enforcement program called Secure Communities, which has netted a number of non-criminal immigrants, including domestic violence victims. Several localities have tried to opt out of participating in the contentious program—including Santa Clara and San Francisco Counties in California, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington D.C.—but ICE has waffled on allowing them to do so. The documents ordered for release should shed light on the issue.

ColorLines’ Seth Freed Wessler reports that last week’s ruling was the second of its kind made against ICE:

In July, a federal court ordered the release of all government documents related to Secure Communities, following a public information request by Uncover the Truth, a coalition of civil rights and immigrant rights groups. The government released only some documents, which revealed that the program had resulted in the deportation of tens of thousands of non-citizens with no criminal convictions at all, or with convictions for low-level things like traffic violations.

The dark side of detention

The indiscriminate roundup of undocumented immigrants can have grave consequences—particularly when the immigration enforcement system is overly outsourced and over capacity.

While we’ve highlighted several cases of detention centers run amok in the past, Forrest Wilder at the Texas Observer has been following the case of a particularly horrifying incident at the Reeves County Detention Center near Pecos, Texas.

Two years ago, when the facility’s remarkably poor conditions provoked immigrant detainees to demand a meeting with the Mexican consulate, 1,200 detainees rioted and commandeered the facility, costing more than $1 million in damages. The impetus: The arguably preventable death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, a 32-year-old epileptic Mexican citizen who had lived in the United States since he was 13 and was locked up for “illegal re-entry” into the country:

Galindo’s death set off a huge riot at the Reeves County Detention Center, the world’s largest privately-run prison. It was the first of two riots in protest of poor conditions, especially medical care that the prisoners claimed was literally killing people. At the time of his death from an epileptic seizure, Galindo had been locked up in the prison’s administrative segregation unit for a month, possibly as punishment for his persistent medical complaints.

Wilder further reports that, last week, the ACLU and two El Paso attorneys filed suit against officials and administrators of the ill-reputed facility, stating that “the utter disregard shown by RCDC prison and medical staff to Galindo’s repeated, beseeching, well-founded expressions of fear for his own personal safety bordered on sadistic.”

Galindo’s case is not unique among immigrant detainees in the United States. Immigrant detainees suffer myriad abuses and injustices while their cases are processed and the administration’s increasing emphasis on enforcement only exacerbates the problem.

With the DREAM Act stuck in sentatorial limbo, the dire circumstances of hundreds of thousands of immigrants should compel President Obama to take action where Congress will not.

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: takomabibelot via Flickr
by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger


Michael Cunningham

"When you truly "Care" you look for solutions that work for all humanity not just solutions that are selfish, that are only for some!"

Just what are these solutions that are selfish & for some? Just what kind of solutions would you propose?

"And if you truly care about everyone then maybe you should stop spreading the hate..."

Could you please describe this "hate" so that we can know just what it is of which you speak?

Erika S.
Erika S7 years ago

When you truly "Care" you look for solutions that work for all humanity not just solutions that are selfish, that are only for some!
And if you truly care about everyone then maybe you should stop spreading the hate...

Michael Cunningham

"We have a broken system which we must fix, for all our sakes. Dragoonian ideas and methods don't give long-lasting solutions. Think. These "illegals", as some call them, are human beings. They are trying as best they can to make a life for their families. They cross an imaginary line, called a border b/w countries, to risk much, to have food to eat. "

I though Dragoons were German soldiers in the 18th cent?
I can agree with the statement about a broken system is correct, but I suspect we are talking 2 different systems. Border security is broken! "as some call them"? There is no question, they are ILLEGAL! I suspect it is about much more than merely putting food on the table!
The poorest 10% in Mexico is about 1.3% of its population. The country ranks 10th, world wide, in total income. By comparison the same % for the US is 1.8%. Money sent by illegals from US is about 5% of Mexico's national income. Also means that each illegal in the US, Man, Woman, & Child sends Mexico and amount equal to the per capita annual income based on GDP. But understand that is for every man woman & child in the country.
Trying perhaps, trying their best they would not break the law.
Just because the line is imaginary does not make it real!

"i" is an imaginary number but it does very real things!

Michael Cunningham

"And while we're on the subject, undocumented workers give a lot to this country, while getting less out."
Report by the Center for Immigration Studies
$11 billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year by state governments.
Illegal households only pay about one-third the amount of federal taxes that non-illegal households pay.
Illegal households create a net fiscal deficit at the federal level of more than $10 billion a year. If given amnesty, this number could grow to more than $29 billion.
$1.9 billion dollars a year is spent on food-assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC and free school lunches for illegal aliens.
$1.6 billion is spent on the federal prison and court system for illegal aliens.
$2.5 billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.
That is $32.5 b! Then there is; Mexico's Central Bank began keeping records (13 years ago), total annual remittances from the US. The numbers released by the Central Bank on Tuesday(1/27/2009). Mexicans sent $25 billion to their families. That now totals a cost to the US of $57.5 b.
This money would fund 13 different Federal Agencies completely. The largest budget on my list is $56 b, the lowest $6.5. So if one were to pick & choose multiple agencies could be funded. Although most of this money would have been moving the economy forward.
A living wage? Two points; if it was not a living wage they would not take the job, & were it not $25 b could not be sen

Craig C.
Craig C7 years ago

Martha i have a idea for you how about you try crossing a imaginary line in Egypt, Iran, Afgan or China and see how well you are treated, stop with the non-sense, and the defense of what is happening to our country. E-verify is the only way it will get done right, all businesses large or small.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

I am a big supporter of the DREAM Act. Children who have grown up here, been American all their lives, should not be punished because their parents did something illegal..........

And while we're on the subject, undocumented workers give a lot to this country, while getting less out. We want them to pick our veggies, but we hound them when they are discovered. Your fruits would cost a whole lot more if they were paid a living wage -- they aren't, and often cheated of the hours they've put in. They die in the fields from dehydration and sun stroke. Emphasis is not on punishing their employers.

Let's get a little perspective, here. We have a broken system which we must fix, for all our sakes. Dragoonian ideas and methods don't give long-lasting solutions. Think. These "illegals", as some call them, are human beings. They are trying as best they can to make a life for their families. They cross an imaginary line, called a border b/w countries, to risk much, to have food to eat. When we have discussions about immigration, I hope that we can put ALL the cards on the table.

Jeffrey Clark
Jeffrey Clark7 years ago

Vince D: Yours is the best plan I have heard to date. Sending the parents home is the correct response. We should be looking out for our own citizens who are looking for work. If the 12M number is right (which I seriously doubt), think how many unemployed Americans could benefit from the openings which the job market would see. As a result our outlay for unemployment would see a major decrease. The only losers here are the people who came here illegally and the government in their country of origin which will be tasked with seeing to their needs.

I also agree that allowing the children to finish their education is a good idea. The blame for the selfish actions of their parents should be theirs. This gives them a start toward furthering their education and the opportunity to be a positive part of society.

Robert O: I have to guess you have a job which has not seen the loss of wages due to competition from illegal aliens. I have had to lower what I charge hourly 3 times in the last 12 years to keep business coming. See how that works for you and your standard of living.

Michael Cunningham

Your first paragraph makes no sense.

"To apply for a visa you need to have sufficient money in the bank, own a bussiness or know someone wealthy enough to sponsor you.." I will admit that the immigration rules can appear daunting. But the first two things you mention do not appear as part of the requirements. Unless you found something I missed. The third point is misleading, all that is required is a sponsor that can "support" you. That is a very broad term.

"(N)o other choice than to survive". Is a ridiculous statement. It implies total destitution. And if that is the case where does the money come from to fund the trek north? Further those caught and returned are back in a matter of weeks. This does not support the claim of total destitution.

As for compassion, how do you define compassion? Do you have compassion for the "homeless" person at the freeway exit begging for money? Do you give them money - that's compassionate. Unless they really have a home and this is their job! Actually giving them food would be much more compassionate. But I have heard from those that have done this that they got angry. Two other events are even more compassionate yet, taking them to a restaurant for a real meal, or putting them in your spare bedroom. Ever done that? No! Then, do not talk to me of compassion!

Phyllis Henderson

Legally yes keep. Illegal should be given chance to do legal first if won't do it shipped out.

Janet K.
Janet K7 years ago

I think we should institute a program that deports politicians to Mars.