Immigration policy is often discussed in sweeping, over-simplified terms. Beyond the op-ed commentary is the complicated reality of how an illegal alien travels from point A, their first contact with law enforcement, to point B, their country of origin. Discretion, logistics, and copious paperwork by law enforcement and judicial officials separate the two points.
A new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, “Deportation Basics: How Immigration Enforcement Works (or Doesn’t) in Real Life,” discusses the ground-level process of what is now called ‘removal proceedings’ and the issues that surround it. The report is available by clicking here.
Among the findings:
* A large percentage of aliens flee from removal proceedings – perhaps as many as 59 percent of all those released to await hearings. On a cost basis from the alien’s perspective, this makes sense. If you are in proceedings and have little chance of relief, why not treat the bond money (if it’s even required) as the cost of having been caught, and then flee, hoping to stay under the radar for as long as possible, perhaps until the next amnesty?
* Though fashionable in the Obama administration, the exercise of “prosecutorial discretion” is problematic for ICE field officers. If the alien that they decline to remove goes on to commit a heinous act, they could be subject to lawsuits from victims and will be held accountable by their own agency (even if agency leadership encourages them to use the tool).
* Even in today’s technology-driven world, charging an alien with immigration violations is a paperwork-intensive, cumbersome process that requires agents to fill out nearly 20 different forms each time.
* ICE officers are supposed to consider two key factors in determining whether to detain or release an alien in proceedings – if the alien is a flight risk and if he is a risk to the community. The latter factor obviously is given serious consideration, but it is equally obvious from the large number of absconders that officers don’t give the same weight to the likelihood of flight, especially considering the scarcity of funded detention space.