11/16/2010 07:22 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Deportation Roulette

It is understood that a legal permanent resident who has a brush with the law would be subject to the consequences - including deportation - based on the nature of his/her offense. The government maintains that its priority when deporting immigrants has been on offenders of serious crimes. But preliminary findings released by Justice Strategies suggest otherwise, as reflected in disproportionately higher rates in deportation of immigrants with lesser offenses, since it is easier to deport them.

In 2009, the deportation rate increased by more than ten percent over preceding years. Contrary to expectations, there has been no decrease in the rates of deportation since 2001. These trends did not go unnoticed by Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization with a focus on sentencing and correctional policy, and the detention and imprisonment of immigrants.

Recently, Justice Strategies released the preliminary findings of a forthcoming report New York City Enforcement of Immigration Detainers. Analyzing noncitizens whose top charge is a drug-related offense, as contained in a database of all discharges in 2008 by the New York City Department of Corrections, Justice Strategies found that:

  • While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) purports to target the most dangerous offenders, there appears to be no correlation between offense level and identification for deportation.
  • In New York City, Homeland Security detainers are enforced in such a fashion as to effectively terminate the bail rights of certain pre-trial noncitizen prisoners.
  • Controlling for race and offense level, noncitizens with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer spend 73 days longer in jail before being discharged, on average, than those without an ICE detainer.

Over one year ago, I wrote an opinion piece titled Time to De-Ice the Department of Corrections in which I outlined reasons for removing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from local jails. Today, the reasons remain the same.

Arlene M. Roberts is the author of The Faces of Detention and Deportation: A Report on the Forced Repatriation of Immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean.

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