At the Exoneration Project, our families all came from different countries—one time or another—in very different ways for very different reasons. None of us are indigenous in the land we now call home. We fight daily for the civil rights that our country affords its citizens, just as we will fight for the humane and just treatment we should afford our undocumented neighbors. The history of immigration in this country has set many of us on different sides of the law in different eras. At one time or another, many of us would not have been eligible for citizenship.
As outlined in Ron Nixon and Michael D. Shear’s article in today’s New York Times, the President’s new deportation rules allow for more expulsions of undocumented immigrants, more rapidly:
(1) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will enforce immigration laws “to the maximum extent possible,” and begin the hiring of 10,000 new officials.
(2) Any person convicted of any criminal offense will be a priority for removal.
(3) Expedited removals will be expanded from 100 miles of the border and people who have been in the country no more than two weeks to anyone–anywhere in the country–for up to two years (excepting many youth cases).
(4) DHS will revive the 287(g) program that recruits local law enforcement to act as de facto immigration agents.
There are many geopolitical factors that have set the wheels of migration turning and turning until an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants turned up here. Whether you think they are here “illegally” or not, they are here and we have a long tradition of sound and scrupulous legal principles that we should use in determining what to do about it. (Working in wrongful convictions, one of our favorites is due process.)
Many of the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country came because their families are here and have been for a long time. Before we tear those households irreparably apart, let us examine these cases. Let these de facto defendants have access to attorneys and real judicial review—not expedited interviews with hastily hired gatekeepers. And maybe most importantly, don’t “detain” them with little recourse for representation or release while you figure it out. Without a court there might not be a conviction, but that is surely wrong.