Friday, February 15, 2013

Is ICE Ginning up the Numbers of "Criminal" Deportations?

The Obama Administration has stated publicly that it's deportation policy is to concentrate enforcement resources on high priority cases, such as criminal aliens.  An article in USA Today suggests that the Administration may have been ginning up the numbers to make it appear as though deportation of criminals has been on the rise.

At issue is what the definition of a "criminal alien" is.  The easy cases are those convicted of crimes such as assault and battery and larceny.  The article suggests, however, that the Administration has included in its definition of a "criminal alien" those who have convictions for minor traffic offenses, such as driving without a license.

To be clear, in Virginia, driving without a license is a misdemeanor, and can carry a jail sentence of no more than one year.  However, undocumented aliens cannot obtain a driver's license in Virginia.  This raises the question of whether driving without a license is on par with other crimes, such as larceny.

In the past, ICE has estimated that up to a quarter of its criminal deportations included aliens who had only traffic violations.  ICE has not released information of how many of the criminal deportations of the most current year were due to minor traffic convictions.

While the article hints that ICE has been trolling DMV records, and deporting aliens who have nothing more than a traffic violation, the article also points out that there have been instances where ICE has refused to initiate deportation proceedings against aliens who were cited for driving without a license.  The article mentions as an example an incident near Asheville, North Carolina where 15 individuals were arrested at a police checkpoint mostly for minor traffic violations, immigration officials ordered many of them released.

The article implies that there are quotas within the agency to maintain high numbers of criminal deportations, and that in orderto meet these goals there is pressure to initiate removal proceedings against those convicted of minor traffic offense.

By:  William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832

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