U.S. Hits New Low in Treatment of Immigrants

150105potwI’ve always been glad to leave the immigration policy-making to others. When asked for my opinion on what should be done about, say, entry by undocumented immigrants, I’ll shake my head and say I can see both sides of the issue, and there’s no perfect solution.

But the one thing I’ve always said loud and clear is that, whatever the immigration law may be at the time, the U.S. government needs to do a better job at administering it consistently and fairly.

It’s always been a bit spotty in that regard — ask any immigration lawyer. You’ll hear horror stories about clients with great cases who were nevertheless denied the remedy or immigration benefit they applied for, were harassed for documents they couldn’t possibly have, were asked to produce evidence that was wholly irrelevant to their case, or were wrongly accused of lying because the officer seemed to be having a bad day.

But the events of the past year are enough to make one wonder whether U.S. immigration authorities have any regard for the law at all.

First, we’ve got the stories coming in from Artesia and other places processing Central American migrants fleeing violence there. In a damning report by Stephen Manning, he describes hearings at which women and children appeared before an immigration judge with a volunteer attorney by their side only to be told that the lawyer could neither speak to the judge nor to the lawyer’s own client. Last I heard, that’s a violation of the Fifth Amendment right to counsel, and contravenes the laws on asylum, which state that the U.S. shall not return people to a country where they fear persecution.

The U.S. government has simply ignored all this, claiming that the influx of migrants was a “national security threat.” Women and children, many of them from rural areas. Yeah, right.

Then we’ve got the on-again, off-again Executive Order of November 20, 2014 that promised an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and a new program called “DAPA” (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents).

On the very eve of when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was to begin accepting applications under the expanded DACA program — by which time many potential applicants had been no doubt gathering documents, consulting with attorneys, and so on — a Texas judge pulled out the rug by issuing an injunction against the order.

Many legal scholars think the judge’s order was overtly political and legally unsound. So wouldn’t you think that, while we wait for the dust to settle, the immigration enforcement authorities would at least hold off on deporting people who might be helped by DAPA or expanded DACA? No!

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is going all out to deport them, according to a report by Brianna Lee for the International Business Times (“Immigration Reform: Authorities No Longer Shielding DAPA-Eligible Immigrants From Deportation Cases“). This is despite the fact that anyone eligible for either of these programs obviously has family ties in the U.S., which should put them way down at the bottom of the list of enforcement priorities according to longstanding policies on “prosecutorial discretion.”

Criminals are supposed to be first on ICE’s deportation priority list. That’s why, on the ICE website, it proudly displays photos of ICE officers escorting suspected criminals out of the U.S., as in the photo above (which I’m supposed to tell you is a “Photo Courtesy of ICE”). Funny, I don’t see any photos on the ICE site showing the deportation of women and children.

One hears a lot of complaining from within the U.S. that the migrants from Central America somewhere got the idea that they’d be welcome. Well, the U.S. is certainly disabusing them of that notion. But is it any wonder that the world isn’t clear on what U.S. immigration law actually says, when we can’t seem to agree on it from one week to the next?