Old Crime Returns to Haunt Legal Immigrants

12 08 2008

I Have read about a few cases were legal immigrants that committed a “crime” are being deported 10, 20, 30, and 40 years later due to a new law. Here are a few examples; the first is from the New York Times:

Old Crime Returns to Haunt an Immigrant; Facing Deportation, Dominican May Become Test Case for New Law

For 171 days now, immigration officials have held Jesus Collado, a Bronx restaurant manager and a legal resident of the United States, in a detention center in Pennsylvania for a misdemeanor he committed 23 years ago and for which, until now, he had never spent a day in jail.

Mr. Collado was convicted of statutory rape and given probation in 1974 because, at 19, he had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. Now, the Immigration and Naturalization Service wants to deport Mr. Collado to his homeland, the Dominican Republic, which he left in 1972 and has only returned to for occasional family visits.

Mr. Collado, his wife and their three children, and even the family of his onetime girlfriend, are baffled and horrified that his long-ago misdeed — a crime of moral turpitude, in legal terms — could tear apart the life that he has built in this country. The I.N.S. says that under tougher laws passed by Congress last year, the agency has no choice but to deport him. The laws broadened the definitions of what constitutes a deportable crime and who is subject to deportation.

But some members of Congress who supported the new laws say they are troubled by cases like Mr. Collado’s and are considering whether some of the language of the new laws needs to be clarified. They say it was never Congress’s intention to deport people who committed minor crimes decades ago but have spotless records since.

I found this article in the Washington post. Here is a small excerpt, for the full article click on the title.

Old Crimes Return to Haunt Legal Immigrants Number Deported for Minor Records Rising, Lawyers and Activists Say

 “The perception among the American public and even among lawmakers is that the people who are being deported are maniacal, homicidal and rapist criminals,” said Alison Parker, deputy director of the U.S. program of Human Rights Watch, which published a report last year on deportations of legal immigrants. “In many cases, they’re green card holders. They’re the family down the street.”

A 1996 federal immigration law facilitated such deportations by greatly expanding the categories of crimes that are deportable offenses, including some misdemeanors. The law also removed most legal immigrants’ rights to fight expulsion by presenting evidence of community ties or hardship to U.S. citizen relatives, and it was retroactive, so that even those convicted before the law took effect in 1997 can be deported.

A total of 272,389 people were deported in 2006, and 95,752 were deported on criminal grounds, federal statistics show. More than 68 percent of the convictions that triggered deportation were for nonviolent crimes, according to the statistics. The government does not publish figures indicating how many of those deported are lawful permanent residents.

Among the legal immigrants whose past crimes have come back to haunt them is a 62-year-old Salvadoran man who lived in Northern Virginiasince the 1980s. After applying to renew his green card, he was detained last year for deportation because of two misdemeanor theft convictions in 2002 and 2003 — one each for shoplifting a bottle of wine and packet of razors, said Jayesh Rathod, a law professor at American University, where students have taken on the man’s case.

In early June, a Baltimore steamfitter was flagged for deportation while going through customs in Atlanta after a trip to his native country, Trinidad. The man, a permanent U.S. resident for 28 years, said he had never had trouble entering after previous travels abroad, but this time, records show, authorities’ interest was piqued by a 1994 theft conviction. According to his attorney, Cynthia Rosenberg, the man had stolen the pen he used to sign a check at a Baltimore grocery store.

“I’m so tired and disgusted with this. Two-thirds of my life is here,” said the man, 59, who has two U.S. citizen children, one of whom is 16. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared angering the immigration judge who will hear his case. “And they want to deport me for a 30-cent pen.”

I hope they take a good look at this law. I am all for deporting criminals, but often times people that are not real criminals get caught in the same net. There ought to be some discretionary exceptions or judgements in cases like these.

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