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.

Undocumented, Unafraid and Now Undercover

Immigration [ICE] thinks it can go after us, well we have news for them, we can go after them too. We can enter their detention centers on our own terms and, with your support, we can come out.

– Mohammad Abdollahi

Alabama’s new immigration law requires that all schools verify the immigration status of children enrolling for the first time and renders contracts entered into with undocumented persons unenforceable, making it next to impossible for undocumented families to obtain utilities such as gas and water in their homes. It marks a new era of hateful segregation in a state that has still not come to terms with the fact that it was on the losing side of the Civil War.

Last Tuesday, 13 undocumented individuals, including four parents, led a civil disobedience action at the Alabama state capitol in protest of HB56. They were arrested by the police for “disturbing the peace” and released within 48 hours. A spokesperson from ICE said no detainer was placed on the individuals and in fact, that all persons were legal residents, which is in fact, untrue. (Ironically, under HB-56, anyone can now sue the police and ICE for not enforcing state immigration law by letting the 13 undocumented protesters go scot-free, but I digress).

The action shows the hypocrisy of the Obama Administration in enforcing immigration laws. Undocumented youth get labeled as legal residents and left alone to fend for themselves when they organize civil disobedience actions. But if an undocumented immigrant is without a large network of supporters and just trying to make an honest living, s/he is more at risk of being detained and deported for something as small as a traffic infraction.

Such is the case with Jonathan Perez and Isaac Barrera — two DREAM-Act eligible youth — who walked into an Alabama Border Patrol office protesting against HB56. Both were detained and, within hours, transferred to the Basile Immigration Detention Center in Southern Louisiana. As they await deportation inside the detention center, Isaac and Jonathan are organizing and collecting stories of those who have been silenced, those who don’t have access to networks in order to tell their stories.

From initial reports, it looks like the Basile Immigration Detention Center is home to many individuals that ICE has detained for more than 6 months without the right to see a lawyer or immigration judge. Additionally, one particular case concerns an allegedly undocumented couple, arrested by ICE after they dropped their child to school. No one knows where the child is now, probably in foster care, like thousands of other U.S. citizen kids, who have been rendered homeless by stringent and senseless immigration enforcement policies.

Imagine doing this across the country: Getting detained and entering immigrant detention facilities across the country in order to gain access to the immigrants that ICE has deemed as criminals, processed like animals and locked away to be deported away from their homes and families.

This year, I’m getting the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family even as I face an order of deportation as early as next month. I’d like Jonathan and Isaac and so many others who have been deprived basic due process rights to have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. Take action and support the work of Isaac and Jonathan from within the detention center. Lets get them home by Thanksgiving.

Small But Important Victories for Asylum Seekers in the United States

So maybe I am preaching to the choir. Yet I cannot ignore the fact that two DREAMers (this term refers to undocumented students in the United States awaiting passage of the federal DREAM Act) made their grievances known about the U.S. asylum-granting system in the space of two days, albeit over separate cases.

Quaker posts here about how the Department of Homeland Security opposed asylum in the case of three Brentwood children who had been beaten, exploited and sexually abused by family members in their native Honduras. DHS and its nativist lapdogs like Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for [Nativist] Immigration Studies (from now on, we will endearingly refer to it as the CNIS), were set adamantly against this because up until now, asylum was only granted to applicants who showed past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

“It’s unfortunately part of a trend where asylum is expanding to areas it was never meant for.”

Of course, Krikorian is going to be upset. For someone who believes that granting two people in love the right to stay together is ‘extremism’ you cannot expect anything less ignorant from the CNIS.

So, according to Homeland Security, these three children did not fall into the category of people fleeing persecution due to their membership in a “particular social group.” Accolades are in order for Judge Gabriel Videla for breaking from past trends and ruling that as “members of the family who were physically abandoned by their parents,” the children did constitute a social group. However, a long list of asylum seekers based on inter-family violence await certain rejection since this decision does not set any sort of precedent.

‘Damn Mexicans’ writes about Attorney General Mukasey blasting an Immigration Judge for denying asylum to a woman because “her genitalia already had been mutilated [so] she had no basis to fear future persecution if returned to her home country.” From the LA Times, Sept 23:

“To begin with, the board based its analysis on a false premise: that female genital mutilation is a ‘one-time’ act that cannot be repeated on the same women,” Mukasey wrote. “As several courts have recognized, female genital mutilation is indeed capable of repletion.”

He cited a case where an asylum applicant’s vaginal opening was sewn shut five times after being opened to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth.

“The board was wrong to focus on whether the future harm to life or freedom that [the applicant] feared would take the ‘identical’ form,” he added.

But Mukasey’s order does not automatically grant U.S. residency to the woman. Instead, the appeals board must now reconsider its earlier ruling.

I would say I am shocked, appalled, infuriated by the drawbacks in our system but alas, knowing that some U.S. Immigration Judges make their decisions based on wikipedia searches, this sort of (il)logic does not surprise me. And it should surprise no one. Also, see this post here about how the United States is in violation of International Law due to its treatment of asylum seekers as criminals.

Such inconsistencies plague the current system of determining asylum that the decision to grant asylum has less to do with the facts of the case and more to do with which Immigration Judge ends up hearing your case.
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Welcome to America Part 2 – Immigration Judge Uses Wikipedia to Deny Asylum

Oh sorry, maybe that should be “NOT Welcome to America” given the recent trend in immigration.

The USCIS is fighting incredibly hard to apply the most restrictive approach to the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)–that offers or has the promise of offering relief to children over 21 who age out while awaiting as beneficiaries of a visa petition filed on behalf of them. It has issued 8 memos to clarify the ‘CSPA’ within the past 5 years and all of them come across as unclear, convoluted, highly debatable [I will take this up in a later post in more detail].

Such is the nature of Immigration Law — immigration judges and officers are not clear as to ‘how’ to apply the law. In a system of judicial checks and balances when incorrect applications of law can be overturned later, that ‘may’ be acceptable. Although when the Bush Administration appoints cronies as immigration judges who are more likely to reject asylum bids and deport persons who really should be granted relief, that surely is a problem. [See this graphic]

What is all the more UNACCEPTABLE is using WIKIPEDIA to reject an asylum bid. It’s not acceptable in academic papers in Graduate school (unless your topic is Wikipedia) and it is definitely appalling when a United States Immigration Judge (IJ) uses Wikipedia to determine the validity of identity documents! This is the case:

An Ethiopian woman’s asylum application was initially denied since she failed to establish her identity concretely. Her case was reopened for consideration of a travel document known as a laissez-passer. After considering evidence that included information from an Internet website, the IJ found that issuance of the laissez-passer was insufficient to establish the alien’s identity. The Board of Immigration found that the IJ’s decision was not clearly erroneous, but the BIA stated that it did not condone the use of the website. The court of appeals held that the BIA failed to adequately explain its conclusion that the alien did not establish her identity. The BIA acknowledged that it was improper for the IJ to have considered information from the website, which could be edited by anyone, and the BIA made no independent determination that the alien had failed to establish her identity. It could not be determined whether the IJ would have reached the same conclusion without consulting the website.

So wait, this Immigration Judge referred to Wikipedia to prove that her identification document was insufficient proof and actually thought he could cite it in his reason for rejection AND that it would be acceptable?! Who appoints idiots like these… Oh wait, never mind.
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Undocumented Teen Commits Suicide in Jail — Cops must be held accountable

A 17-year-old migrant student of Clear Lake High School who was apprehended by cops after an illegal left turn, committed suicide in jail less than 48 hours later. Excerpts from the Chron.com article follows:

Arturo Chavez’s back was flush against a 7-foot partition for the cell’s shower. A blue blanket was twisted into a noose, with one end wrapped around his neck, the other tied to a shower head. […]

It may never be known what swept over Chavez, who illegally emigrated from Guatemala four years ago and spent much of his time trying to improve his English and working to send money home.

All he had made for himself in the U.S. seemed to hang in the balance as Chavez was locked up at the police station and awaiting transfer to county jail.At one point, when the holding-cell door was opened, Chavez bolted for freedom, according to a police report.

With officers running behind, the 5-foot-3-inch Chavez made it outside and scrambled up a chain-link fence, but was grabbed by the feet.

The wire atop the fence ripped into his hands.

In the scramble, he was shocked twice with a taser and hit multiple times with a baton, according to police.

Houston attorney Randall Kallinen said the officers used excessive force to apprehend Chavez.

“He had been severely beaten,” said Kallinen, who added that a head injury could bring on suicidal thoughts — a mix worsened by solitary confinement. Results of an autopsy are pending.

Compassion aside, rabid nativists and their supporters are showing their disregard for humanity once again by posting their hateful and ignorant comments in discussions over his death. Consider this one by MsTexass:

Our fine police department did their job and I am thankful to know they are protecting our streets. Being Illegal in America should = NO RIGHTS, NO JOBS, NO NOTHING

Since when is it the job of law enforcement to use excessive force on teenagers, STUDENTS, who are not yet adults? Arturo Chavez was not yet 18, meaning he had not begun to accrue illegal presence in the United States, which by itself, is not even a crime. His fake ID, insurance and evasion from law enforcement does not add up to the punishment of death. And contrary to the wishes and beliefs of anti-migrant nativists, an ‘illegal alien’ has civil rights in the United States. If you want to cite the rule of law at every turn and that ‘illegal is illegal,’ you should also be prepared to hear that “the 14th Amendment is the 14th Amendment.” How redundant?
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