The United States’ justice system is supposed to operate equally for all defendants, but a new report reveals that the immigration system operates under a different set of rules for immigrants facing deportation.
The American Immigration Council issued on Tuesday a report that reveals the immigration system fails to provide “a fair process” to immigrants in removal proceedings and “lacks nearly all of the procedural safeguards we rely on and value in the U.S. justice system.” The report, titled “Two Systems of Justice: How the Immigration System Falls Short of the Ideals of Justice”, also explores the major operational differences between the criminal justice system and the immigration removal system.
The release of the report came on the heels of an immigration hearing hosted Wednesday by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The hearing, titled “Building an Immigration System Worthy of American Values”, analyzed issues with the current immigration system.
Report: Immigration system ‘does not reflect American values’
The American Immigration Council report reveals some shocking results. It discloses how “the immigration removal system—from arrest to hearing to deportation and beyond—does not reflect American values of due process and fundamental fairness.” Specifically, the report states that the system doesn’t give undocumented immigrants basic due process protections that most Americans possess when their liberty is in jeopardy. Immigrants facing removal proceedings also often don’t have a right to appointed counsel or a right to a speedy trial.
The 13-page report also reveals that immigrants in removal proceedings are “typically unable to prevent the introduction of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” This was the case with Jorge Angel Puc-Ruiz, an undocumented immigrant.
According to the report, local police arrested Puc-Ruiz in Missouri after officers received a tip that he and others were consuming alcohol inside a restaurant after hours, which is a violation of a local ordinance. The officers didn’t have a warrant when they entered the restaurant, placed Puc-Ruiz under arrest and contacted federal immigration authorities.
Eventually, local prosecutors dropped the charges and the judge removed the arrest record, because the officers had lacked probable cause to arrest Puc-Ruiz. However, a federal judge determined that the officers’ violation of the Fourth Amendment was not enough to throw out the evidence used against Puc-Ruiz in immigration court.
“This watered-down constitutional protection leaves the door open for law enforcement agents to target suspected non-citizens for enforcement without fear of being held accountable for abusing their authority,” the American Immigration Council report states.
Furthermore, the report notes that while criminal defendants have the right to appeal a verdict or sentence to a higher court, immigrants in deportation proceedings are limited in their abilities to challenge their removal orders in court. The report explains that’s because undocumented immigrants have fewer rights and fewer legal grounds on which to base an appeal compared to criminal defendants.
“Given the potentially severe consequences of removal—which can range from permanent separation from family in the United States to being returned to a country where a person fears for his life—the lack of procedural safeguards deprives countless individuals of a fair judicial process,” the report states.
Immigration reform should address immigration system issues
As Congress prepares to introduce an immigration reform proposal, the American Immigration Council says it hopes congressional leaders will analyze the report findings and “recognize the importance of procedural safeguards beyond the immigration court system.”
“Each of the components of immigration reform—legalization, the future of the legal immigration system for family and employment-based immigrants, border and other enforcement revisions, integration and naturalization improvements—must be implemented in a way that comports with due process,” American Immigration Council states in its report.
Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, testified during Wednesday’s Senate committee hearing on immigration. In his written testimony, he listed four reforms that are “urgently needed to ensure legal representation in immigration court.”
The four reforms include giving legal representation for immigrants who can’t adequately represent themselves, ensuring more cases go before judges before deportations occur, limiting the extent to which people are imprisoned while the courts process their deportation cases and improving conditions of confinement at detention centers.
“Congress’ legislative work in this area is imperative to address the failings chronicled here and, above all, to show that the sacrifices made by the immigrants profiled, and countless others they represent, are heard in this august precinct—and acted upon,” Arulanantham stated in his written testimony.
Originally published on VOXXI as Report exposes shocking findings on how the immigration system works