Tag Archives: deportation

The Lies Behind Deportation Statistics

Democrat apologists are coming out of the woodwork to defend the Obama Administration’s deportation record.

After all, once you deport 2 million people, expand immigration enforcement, and preside over the largest immigration detention complex in the world, there is nothing stopping even the conservative National Council of La Raza from calling you ‘Deporter-in-Chief.’

The esteemed Julia Preston for the New York Times tells us that court deportations have dropped 43 percent in five years. There is a very simple explanation for why court deportations are down. It is because most people are being deported without ever even seeing a judge, through a process called expedited removal–a term that is so impersonal, but essentially means deportation. Preston paints a rosy picture of the deportation crisis by ignoring the reality that 75 percent of people removed from the country never even saw a judge. They were deported in the most inhumane way–without due process of law. Moreover, due to budget reasons, our immigration courts are so backlogged that many people languish in limbo for years–awaiting a final hearing–before they are deported. And many people in removal proceedings are lawyering up, which makes removal less likely through the immigration court system, and much more likely through the process of “expedited removals.”

The most creative attempt to make the President look good on deportations comes from the New Democrats Network (NDN). The NDN report plays on the legally-crafted distinction between removals and returns to say that Obama may be “removing” more people but is “returning” less than Bush:

The NDN report shows that removals under Obama’s administration have indeed increased, from a record low of 165,168 during the Bush administration in 2002 to a record high of 419,384 in 2012. However, the number of returns has plummeted — dropping sharply from 2008 to 2009, when Obama first took office, and declining steadily since. In 2001, there were 1,349,371 returns, but in 2012 there were only 229,968 — a drop of nearly 83 percent.

What’s the difference between removals and returns? Well, deportation is a rather harsh word, so lawmakers have opted to move away from it since 1996, and categorize deportations as “removals” and “returns.” Removals are actual deportations, and returns constitute voluntary departure. For the government, voluntary departure expedites and reduces the cost of removal. For the non-citizen, voluntary departure removes the stigma of deportation and allows a person more time to depart the country at her or his expense. Many times, non-citizens are actually forced into accepting voluntary departure, so the phrase is a euphemism in practice, and literally means deportation from the country, without the harsh legal consequences of removal.

The 2 million figure contains both removals and returns. However, as the NDN reports admits, Obama has presided over more removals than returns, which means people face harsher consequences if they are deported nowadays. The Immigration Policy Center confirms that the trend has been towards removal rather than return:

The end result is that the number of “removals” (deportations) has trended upward since the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, the number of apprehensions has fluctuated widely, primarily in response to changing economic conditions in the United States and Mexico, and nose-dived when the recession of late 2007 hit. The number of “voluntary returns” has tracked apprehensions closely. However, since 2005, voluntary return has been made available to fewer and fewer apprehended immigrants as deportation (with criminal consequences for re-entry into the country) becomes the preferred option of U.S. immigration authorities.

Another colleague, Anna Law, who is a professor at CUNY Law, penned “Lies, damned lies, and Obama’s deportation statistics” only to be somehow caught up in the web of lies. She concludes in her well-written article that Obama has emphasized returns over removals even though the statistics from ICE and the NDN report tell us otherwise. Law also appears to be downplaying the harmful impact of “expedited removals” by pointing out that “two-thirds of Obama’s overall expulsion numbers consist of returns of people who have previous final orders of removal and who are recently arriving entrants.”

Surprisingly, nowhere in the article does Law analyze that many of these “recently arriving entrants” who have final orders to leave the country actually have family members in the United States, and that “expedited removal” tears apart American families without due process of law. Law does not even mention how the Administration has steadily given more people criminal convictions for mere entry and re-entry such that immigration convictions account for the largest portion of federal convictions. In effect, the Obama Administration is increasingly criminalizing immigrants–giving us criminal records, locking us up in detention centers, and deporting more people who have such minor criminal records.

In conclusion, Obama has presided over more actual removals than former President George W. Bush, criminalized immigrant communities to prioritize us for removal, and in total, the number of returns and removals under his Administration surpasses 2 million.

This is all beside the point. Numbers can be skewed in many ways, and we’ll continue to see both conservatives and liberals spin numbers for political reasons. But numbers don’t tell us the real stories of how people across the country continue to suffer the devastating impact of immigration enforcement. Numbers are impersonal–they do not tell of the violence and terror done to our communities. It does not matter whether Obama or Bush deported more people–what matters is that actual people are suffering due to harsh enforcement programs carried out by the Executive Branch ranging from Operation Streamline to Secure Communities to the Criminal Alien Removal Initiative.

The President can change this, but thus far, he has refused to act. And so we continue the hunger strikes on his lawn, carry on with shutting down ICE, and do what we must to put the pressure where it belongs.

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The Cutest Immigration Video You’ll Ever See

Yes, that’s an Upworthy-style title. You got me. But this is seriously worth 15 seconds of your time.

Immigrant families from across the country are gathered at the White House right now, hunger-striking and demanding the President to stop deporting their loved ones. He sent ICE to their doorsteps, so they came to his doors. Come meet us at the Northeast lawn of Lafayette Park. A daily schedule of events is here.

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While President Obama Takes 90 Days To “Review” Deportations, Here Are Some Deportations To Stop

Photo Credit: NDLON

Photo Credit: NDLON

While the President sits with his hands tied behind his back even as he deports people in record numbers, and Congress remains as ineffective as ever, here are some cases of deportations that need your immediate attention:

These are just less than 1 percent of the numbers of people deported daily from the U.S. Now I don’t believe that deportation is the worst thing that can happen to a person. The invisible detention regime that keeps the undocumented imprisoned inside the cages of America and separated from their loved ones at home is far more insidious, sinister and life-threatening than deportation in many scenarios. Our advocates do not talk about it because it means answering critical questions about America’s role in creating and sustaining conditions that lead us to leave our homes, and serve as a reserve army  of the marginalized and exploited here in the U.S.

But at the same time, our communities need relief now, and they are not likely to get it through Congress. In the meanwhile, keep signing these petitions and keep organizing.

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#Not1More Blue Ribbon Commission to the White House

Families Protest Deportations  at the White House

There has been big movement on the Not 1 More Deportation campaign front in the past few weeks. Key politicians have called on the White House to curtail deportations. The New York Times writes that President Obama is feeling the heat for his 2 million deportations. Janet Murgia jumped into the fray last week by calling the President “The Deporter In Chief” to which the President replied that he was “Champion-In-Chief of comprehensive immigration reform.” Of course, the the two are not mutually exclusive and in response to the growing pressure, the President called a meeting with various immigration reform organizations in D.C. and asked for 90 days of ‘unity’ while ICE finds more “humane” ways to carry out enforcement.

Honestly, I’m not sure how one can more humanely tear families apart. However, in a typical Friday news leak, Homeland Security disclosed that it is considering two measures to ease deportations: end or scale down Secure Communities, and stop deportations of people without criminal convictions. These are certainly welcome changes but there is a lot more that can be done. NDLON’s rule-making petition and NILC’s briefing on how how the President can use executive authority to stop deportations make it crystal clear that there are various things the President can do to ease deportations. It is no longer a question of legal authority but one of political will. 

As the calls for Not One More deportation become more mainstream, it is important to continue escalating and not step off the gas just because the President is trying to pacify us with calls for unity. At this time, it is also important to solidify around a list of goals and recommendations as to how to ease deportations, and ensure that the negotiations are not limited to easing deportations on the lowest hanging fruit. As Marisa Franco writes:

At some point the calls for what the President should do will get more specific, and inevitably negotiations of some sort will begin.  We must hold the line and try to win the most expansive relief possible.  We should also take aim at the deportation programs that have been the driving force behind racial profiling, detention and deportation of migrants.  This should not be a time for simply reaching for the lowest hanging fruit.  Not one More, period.

To that end, immigrant leaders who have been directly impacted by U.S. immigration policies established the #Not1More Blue Ribbon Commission to the White House this past week. The goals of the Commission are to keep the pressure on the White House, release recommendations on how to ease deportations by April 5, 2014, and request that the leaders are allowed to present the recommendations to the President. I’m excited to see what the Commission can come up with in the next month to move us all forward.

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Community Voices: Stop the Deportations

I am a little late on this one, courtesy the holidays and a visit from my awesome in-laws. They treated us to some great dinners and then bought a nice gym membership for both of us. I get the message since I am not as dense as the immigration system in the U.S.

If you want to check out how convoluted and utterly ridiculous U.S. immigration can be, look no further than this story of a deported U.S. citizen, who finally has her passport back.

President Barack Obama said during a trip to New Orleans, “We should be fighting to make sure everybody who works hard in America, and hard right here in New Orleans, that they have a chance to get ahead.” So why is the Obama Administration piloting a new, unprecedented and extraordinarily harsh effort to hunt down and deport thousands of hardworking undocumented immigrants in New Orleans?

Ju Hong, an undocumented graduate of U.C. Berkeley, interrupted President Barack Obama during his stump speech on immigration reform in San Francisco earlier this week. His “yelling” echoed across the country, and has sparked a series of articles, mostly calling on the President to use his executive authority to stop deportations:

And there are many more. Ju also wrote an open letter to the President pointing out the many contradictions between Obama’s words and actions.

The National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) unveiled various images for the holiday season that should resonate with families torn apart by deportations:

NOT1MORE

Almost half of all persons facing deportation lack access to counsel and cannot afford to get counsel. The figures are worse for those who are detained. But help is on the way.  In New York, a new pilot program is finally providing support for people who find themselves in removal proceedings. Deportations to Mexico are expected to spike in 2014, such that even the Mexican government is now pouring resources into deported adults and children. These efforts need our continued support and funding.

Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) in the Bay Area has released a comprehensive guide containing 52 pages of up-to-date information about scholarships available for immigrant students who don’t have U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency as well as advice and tips for writing winning scholarship applications.

DRM Action, a political group for Dreamers, is working on breaking the current lock-jam in Congress over immigration reform, and suggests halting deportations and passing the GOP KIDS Act as alternatives to the Senate’s S.744 bill. Dreamers are also warming up to Rep. Joe Heck’s piecemeal proposal to direct the government to cancel the deportation of those who were in the United States as of Dec. 31, 2011, and who were 15 or younger when they arrived.

Immigration is not just a Latino issue. Thousands of American Muslims have been targeted for “voluntary interviews” since September 11, 2001–interviews unconnected to any specific criminal investigation. These interviews, predominantly by the FBI, have become increasingly coercive. In an effort to help attorneys deal with representing clients for these “voluntary interviews,” the Muslim Advocates will be hosting a webinar on December 11, 2013 at 12 PM PST / 3 PM EST.

The DREAM 9 ripple effects continue. DreamActivist has identified a long list of abuses and misappropriation of priorities at the Eloy Detention Center. These include:

  • Over 100 cases where detainees are granted Credible Fear, provide sponsorship documents, and ICE officials still refuse to release. This in direct violation of Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) Directive No.: 11002.1;
  • 3 cases of pregnant women detained in conditions detrimental to the health of their unborn babies;
  • Several instances of harassment based on the individuals religious or sexual identities;
  • Documentation only being provided in English, without access to interpreters. A majority of detainees are primary, non-English speakers;
  • Over 20 cases of individuals being held despite clearly being eligible for discretion under the Morton Memo, issued in 2011;
  • A case of a male detainee being refused proper medication;
  • Arbitrary Credible Fear rulings; instances of two individuals with identical cases (detained together) with one granted and another failed;
  • Over a dozen instances of long-term, unjust, detention resulting in the deportation of discretion eligible individualss

As such, the organization is calling for a complete review of cases at Eloy Detention Center.

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Not One More Deportation

Ju Hong challenges the President on deportations

Ju Hong challenges the President on deportations

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.

. . . We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

— Martin Luther King, Letter From the Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Immigrant rights leader, Ju Hong, has been the subject of much derision in mainstream media circles for interrupting the President during his last speech on immigration reform. However, he is a hero among the undocumented. I am proud to call Ju Hong, a graduate student at my alma mater, San Francisco State University (SFSU), a comrade in the struggle.

Ju sparked a debate among legal experts on whether or not the President can stop deportations on his own. President Obama’s answer was quite evasive. Immigration attorney Matthew Kolken has stated that it is beyond clear that the President has the power to stop some deportations. In fact, that is precisely what the Obama Administration did with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), backed by dozens of legal experts. He also did the same for widowed spouses of U.S. citizens, though in smaller numbers. And most recently, he extended parole in place for the family members of active, reserve and former U.S. army members. These are unilateral actions to stop deportations from someone who says he doesn’t have any power to stop deportations. Even the Editorial Board at New York Times wrote an article in favor of Hong:

Mr. Obama then cut him off and began a misleading ad-lib about how halting deportations would be illegal. While the president cannot throw out whole sections of immigration law to bypass Congressional inaction, he does have discretion in choosing how to enforce it wisely. Mr. Obama was firmly within the law when he selectively halted deportations for some immigrants brought here illegally as children and for spouses and children of service members and veterans. He can undoubtedly expand administrative efforts to protect other immigrants left stranded by legislative failure.

Earlier today on Al-Jazeera International, Neidi Dominguez, a leader from the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, and I held down the fort for Ju Hong, and many others in the community who have put their lives on the line and engaged in civil disobedience actions over the past few years. Hong’s call to the President to stop deportations resonated with many in the immigrant rights community who have made the same demand through sit-ins, stopping deportation buses, locking themselves to the gates of detention facilities and so on.

These actions serve to not just place a spotlight on our communities that are devastated by deportations. These actions also empower us to let go of the fear of our unauthorized presence in this country, and become unafraid and unapologetic. As Neidi stated on Al-Jazeera, getting arrested could have meant deportation for her last year, but she would face it on her own terms. When the Obama Administration executed a notice to start my deportation, it was on my own terms. Alas, I still yearn for a home and family I have not seen in almost 15 years.

Civil disobedience actions are the theatre of the oppressed–a performance to make a larger political point. Across the country, members of our community are openly and directly challenging policies that are tearing our families apart, at detention centers, out on the streets and even at the border. We are tired of seeing parents separated from their children, and we are simply not willing to take it anymore. Whether or not we get any type of immigration reform from Congress, it is very clear that we have created a fundamental paradigm shift and fostered a major cultural transformation of our people into “undocumented and unafraid.” We are here, many of us are queer, and we are not going away.

Criticizing people such as Ju and Neidi for escalating serves as a tactic to further oppress our communities, and perpetuates violence against already vulnerable migrant bodies. Those with more privilege than us tend to forget that the “undocumented and unafraid” come from some of the most vulnerable communities, and we carry many traumas. It takes not just boundless energy, but persistent courage, to live and breathe in this country on a daily basis.

Taking part in the theatre of the oppressed is the only way the politically deaf will not only hear, but listen to our voices. The calls have reached a fever pitch, transformed into a chorus, and will only grow louder with each passing day.

Not One More Deportation.

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Community Voices: “The Good Fight”

I was honored to be on Episode 2 of The Good Fight with Ben Wickler, a progressive show about people changing the world.

Friend of this blog, Professor Allegra McLeod at Georgetown Law, had her research on immigrant and criminal convictions covered extensively in an article by The Atlantic on Why Are Immigrants Being Deported for Minor Crimes?

Allegra McLeod, an associate Professor of Law at Georgetown, examined cases like Sylvain’s in a position paper last year for the American Criminal Law Review. She writes that between 1990 and 2010, immigration offenses became the most common federally prosecuted crimes in the U.S. After 1996, when the new laws took affect, approximately one million immigrants were been deported as a result of criminal convictions. Moreover, McLeod estimates that 20 percent of those removed were longtime legal residents, and the majority of their crimes were minor, non-violent offenses.

[…]

What’s more, McLeod writes, “a criminal conviction is not necessarily a reliable indicator of undesirability or dangerousness.” For that reason, the heightened attention on immigrants like Sylvain and Khoy would not seem to be in the public’s best interest. McLeod cites Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson, who found that increases in immigration normally are “associated with reduced crime rates,” and that “the diversion of resources to criminally prosecuting undocumented immigrants may be particularly misguided from a public safety standpoint.”

The Atlantic delves into why the U.S. is deporting long-time legal permanent residents:

Sylvain is one of thousands of immigrants who have been charged with “aggravated felonies” by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The term, first introduced in the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, applies specifically to immigrants and asylum-seekers: If they’re convicted of any of the crimes in this category, they can be deported and prohibited from reentering the U.S. for 20 years. In 1988, the list of aggravated felonies was limited to serious crimes such as murder and drug trafficking. But Congress expanded the definition over the years, most extensively in 1996.

The two 1996 laws—the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA—came in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, when Congress felt pressured to streamline new immigration reform. The measures made more than 20 new crimes into aggravated felonies, including counterfeit, perjury, and obstruction of justice. They also reduced threshold requirements from five years to one, meaning that any immigrant issued a one-year prison sentence could be instantly deportable.

Immigrant rights organizers continued to partake in shutdown ICE actions by trying to stop deportation buses even as Congress tip-toed around the question of immigration reform. In Illinois, undocumented organizers and supporters formed human chains to stop their third deportation bus. In Atlanta, more than a dozen persons locked themselves to the gates of the downtown Atlanta ICE office to protest deportations. After partaking in the action, Caitlin Breedlove, Co-director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), wrote an excellent piece on Queer, Immigrants, All of Us: Not 1 More.

This is not a surprise for most of us but a recently released GAO report on sexual abuse in detention found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under-reported sexual abuse and assault in detention. A staggering 20 percent of detainees who reported sexual assault or abuse are transgender, showcasing the need for direct services for this population.

The Nation carried an excellent article on the ever-expanding U.S.-surveillance and border regime:

In many cases, the US is also training border forces in the use of sophisticated surveillance systems, drones, and the construction of fences and barriers of various kinds, largely in attempts to clamp down on the movement of people between poorer and richer countries. More than 15,000 foreign participants in more than 100 countries have taken part in CBP training sessions since October 2002. It is little wonder, then, that an L-3 Communications sales rep would shrug off the constraints of a shrinking domestic national security budget.

Meanwhile, US borders are functionally being stretched in all sorts of complex ways, even across the waters. As Michael Schmidt wrote in the New York Times in 2012, for example, “An ocean away from the United States, travelers flying out of the international airport here on the west coast of Ireland are confronting one of the newest lines of defense in the war on terrorism: the United States border.” There, at Shannon International Airport, Department of Homeland Security officials set up the equivalent of a prescreening border checkpoint for air travelers.

Whether it is in your airports or, as in Haiti’s case, in the international waters around your country, the US border is on its way to scrutinize you, to make sure that you are not a threat to the “homeland.” If you don’t meet Washington’s criteria for whatever reason, you will be stopped, forcibly if necessary, from entering the United States, or even in many cases from traveling anywhere at all.

[…]

With this in mind, the experimental border control technologies being tested along the US-Mexican boundary line and the border-industrial complex that has grown up around it are heading abroad in a major way. If Congress finally passes a new multi-billion dollar border-policing package, its effects will be felt not only along US borders, but also at the edges of its empire.

The frontier isn’t coming down anytime soon. The USCIS released a policy memo re-stating that it would continue to deny priority date retention to age-outs until the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) issue is resolved by the Supreme Court. It also added that any applications filed for adjustment of status from now on, seeking retention of priority date, would be rejected as improperly filed, and not even held in abeyance. This memo is suspiciously well-timed for the litigation at the Supreme Court, and a post-ad hoc justification for not giving full meaning to the CSPA.

For those of us who watched the Hunger Games today, here is some food for thought on the revolution that the U.S. refuses to start.

I’m Team Haymitch. I think we are just about appropriately jaded, no?

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