Photo: What is Deportation
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.
* The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for several types of due process for aliens, depending on their circumstances of arrival and stay. The law does not require that all removals be ordered by an immigration judge.
* The option of Voluntary Return, where the alien requests to be returned home in lieu of formal removal proceedings, is not really “voluntary,” but is beneficial to the alien because it carries fewer consequences if the alien returns illegally. It also has become subject to overuse or misuse in recent years as a tool to increase the volume of removals, at the expense of more formal methods of removal that have more deterrent value.
* Immigration law provides for seven ways to remove an alien, which are explained in the report. Four of these options are relatively efficient, but used less frequently. If ICE chose to expand their use, the workload of the immigration court could be reduced and the immigration enforcement system would be less dysfunctional.
* The total number of apprehensions of illegal aliens by immigration enforcement agencies is less than half of what it was five years ago. For instance, the drop in apprehensions by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is often explained by improvements in border security; however, this rationale is suspect, as has been pointed out by the Rand Corp. in a study of border metrics. But ICE apprehensions also have dropped steeply, although there has been only a modest drop in the size of the illegal population inside the United States.