A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

More Long-Term Residents Targeted for Deportation

There are a few ways one becomes an "illegal immigrant" in the United States. The most common are either entering illegally, staying past an authorized period of time, or losing immigrant status because of illegal actions. A major consideration in dealing with illegal immigration is where the government decides to focus its resources.

The Obama administration chose to tackle the current immigration case backlog by stemming the inward flow of foreign nationals. Immigration politics have noticeably shifted to stricter and less forgiving enforcement under the Trump administration, whose strategy seems to be expediting the deportation process.


Recent data released by third-party research center TRAC shows the disparity between how the Trump and Obama administrations handle immigration cases. Immigration court cases during the Obama presidency were 72% to do with newly arrived foreign nationals and only 6% to do with those that had been in the United States for at least 2 years. Recent numbers show a reversed trend, with only 10% of cases being for new arrivals while 43% involved longer term residents. 


While the Obama administration's "last-in-first-out" strategy was aimed at reducing the number of illegal entrants, the Trump administration decided to focus on those who had already entered and begun to assimilate into the country. The change is apparent in TRAC's report: the average length of stay in the country before immigration court cases was 12 years in 2006. The number hovered between 2 and 4 years from 2017-2018.

This administration has also been pushing for deportation through the authority of the Attorney General. Immigration court falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, thereby giving the Attorney General authority over the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and the immigration court system. Immigration judges are allowed to grant continuation, delaying a case and allowing the foreign national in question a longer stay. But a recent memorandum by the Chief Immigration Judge discouraged continuances, blaming them for the over 600,000 immigration case backlog. New case quotas also encourage judges to choose deportation over continuation, regardless of the alternate possibility of a new visa. The objective is to quicken the deportation process.

The immigration judges, already carrying an extraordinary caseload, find this shift in policy unacceptable. For example, 18 retired immigration judges issued a statement to Congress arguing that immigration judges should be evaluated based on the quality of their decisions, not the quantity, as hasty decisions are prone to errors.  Ultimately, they advocate for an independent immigration court to be free from political influences. 

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