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When the Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, its immigration enforcement agencies including Customs & Border Protection and Immigration & Customs Enforcement were purportedly designed to protect the U.S. against terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, the majority of work done by CBP and ICE involve deporting nonviolent immigrants who have recommitted immigration offenses such as unlawful entry to the U.S. The punitive treatment of the offenders serves no national security purpose and does not deter offenders from recommitting offenses.
A new report from the University of Arizona reports the pointless and inhumane treatment of nonviolent immigration offenders in a number of U.S. enforcement programs. In Operation Streamline, which is a mass trial program for border crossers, charges 40-80 people per hearing for “illegal entry.” The large amount of people per hearing and the limited time to challenge the decision raises concerns about the quality of legal counsel. The ineffectiveness of legal counsel is apparent based on surveys and interviews conducted with recent deportees. Only about 40% were informed they had legal rights, 1% were checked for actual legal status and 2% were asked to report any abuses against them. This report emphasizes that the first offense of unlawful entry carries a maximum six-month sentence, but those convicted will have a criminal record because of the immigration offense that may exclude them rom legal residence or entry. When asked about what the deportees understood from their sentence, 71% mentioned that they were unaware that they would face jail time if they returned to the U.S.
Operation Streamline has been used heavily within the past few years because of the increase in deportations. Because the offense of entering the country unlawfully carries a heavier sentence than the previously administrative offense, criminal prosecutions for illegal entry have increase from 3900 cases to 43700 cases in 10 years. Yet despite the harsh consequences, many people continue to try to return to the U.S. because that is where their homes are. About 60 % of respondents said they planned to recross the border in the near future as most had children under the age of 18 who were American citizens.
Border security has clearly not achieved the goal for which the program was initially stared. Punishing nonviolent offenders without due process creates chaos in the judicial system and allows for more individuals to be unfairly treated in the court of law.
If you have questions regarding the new immigration reform, applying for a visa or the changing immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.