I still get the ABA Journal but I’m starting to wonder if I should quit reading it. It always seems to elevate my blood pressure.
I’ve blogged before about how Immigration and Customs Enforcement has ramped up deportations over the past couple of years, and how that has affected my wife’s family. Last year over 400,000 people were deported from the U.S. Twenty-three percent of those deported have U.S.-citizen children and some (like the husband of my wife’s niece) were brought into the U.S. as children many years ago, grew up here and weren’t even aware that they were undocumented until their arrest. The federal government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement last year alone.
About 76,000 of those deported have drug (40,448) or DUI (36,166) convictions, subjecting them to deportation under the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act, which also restricts a judge’s ability to consider specific personal circumstances.
Consider the case of Alex Timofeev of Madison, Wisconsin. Alex immigrated to the U.S. from Russia 21 years ago, with his family. He was 14 at the time. Over the next five years, while a teenager growing up in Madison, Alex was arrested for possession of marijuana three times, pleading no contest to each charge and satisfying the penalty assessed.
He grew up, married, fathered two children and became a chef. Although he obtained a social security card, he never got a green card authorizing permanent residency.
Sixteen years after his last marijuana arrest, agents showed up at his home and arrested him. His long-pending permanent residency application was terminated and he was set for deportation as a result of his sixteen-year-old teenage marijuana possession convictions.
The first judge to hear his case (after he had been detained for 4 months) ruled that he could not be deported on the basis of the convictions because he hadn’t been advised before pleading no-contest that conviction could result in deportation. The Department of Justice appealed and the appellate court returned the case to the trial judge for further proceedings. As of now Mr. Timofeev is awaiting the decision that will either allow him to continue with his life in Wisconsin, or will deport him to the Russia he left as a 14 year old child.
This is the kind of nonsense that results from a “one-size-fits-all” policy, the enforcement of which is being driven, it seems, by a desire to satisfy the current public anti-immigrant sentiment. Last year I ended up driving behind a truck that had large American flags flying from it and a license plate that read “DPORT EM.” No doubt that guy will be pleased if Alex Timofeev is deported to Russia.
But is that really the kind of country we want to live in?