In discussing immigration, it has become common to bring up the two million deportations statisticians claim are at the feet of the Obama administration. However, some do call that statistic into question, on both sides of the political spectrum. This becomes particularly true when one examines a curious trend: arresting people attempting to leave the United States. Do these arrests count in the overall deportation statistics? Why or why not?
The Situation at the Border
Currently, along the country’s southern border, vehicles and people are often searched to ensure they are not taking out anything that requires reporting to authorities—most commonly, currency in excess of $10,000. Sometimes, people carrying that amount are doing so for nefarious purposes, such as muling for Mexican cartels; such mules have been stopped before at the border, especially in Nogales, Arizona, and in El Paso.
However, even if someone has no cartel ties and nothing to declare, he or she must be stopped according to policy. As Joe Agosttini, the assistant port director in Nogales, put it, “if [someone] is illegally in the U.S., then that person has to pay a consequence.”
Current Customs & Border Protection (CBP) policy is to arrest anyone who is in the country without documentation, even if they are 20 feet from leaving with nothing else to detain them. There are more and more legal minds beginning to take issue with this.
People on all sides of the immigration debate find the practice of detaining those already on their way out nonsensical. Robert Brack, one of the busiest immigration judges in the country, has spoken out on the record about the waste of time and resources used processing those on their way out. He stated that while he understands stopping people to make sure they are not carrying drugs or anything that could tie them to organized crime, actually prosecuting them seems pointless. The people he sees in his courtroom, he stated to NPR, “don’t have any money … or guns.”
Even the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a nonprofit that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) characterizes as virulently anti-immigrant, has stated a wish to see this policy ended. Ira Mehlman, the media director for FAIR, characterizes it as a waste, citing a $160-per-day bill for each inmate. Resources, he argues, would be better spent elsewhere.
One of the major reasons for this policy may be a wish to manipulate deportation numbers. The Los Angeles Times reports that the criteria for what counts as a deportation has changed since previous administrations. At this point, both removals (orders issued by a judge) and returns (when someone is simply placed on a bus back to Mexico or a plane back to their country) are counted. However, that was not always the case. In the beginning of the administration, looking tough on undocumented immigration was important, but now, with the current influx of minors, it is only serving to alienate Latinos and those who may have undocumented relatives.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
While the majority of these stories seem to come from the southern border, they can in fact happen anywhere. If you feel you have been unlawfully detained, or if you need help in immigration court, contact the Chicago immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC today.
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