There has been public discussion and even confusion regarding how federal immigration policy involving prosecutorial discretion will pan out. This blog has reported several stories of the new immigration policy in recent months, including a story from the West Coast, where a federal appellate court held several deportation cases up and asked immigration officials if the cases were proper for prosecutorial discretion.
Wednesday, the other side of the coin was discussed in a congressional committee related to a proposed immigration measure that would impact misdemeanor drunk driving cases at the state and local levels. The bill has been introduced four times since 2005. The most recent discussion was held during a hearing Wednesday in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.
The measure proposes to make any DUI conviction an automatically deportable event. The bill intends to instruct the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the deportation of any undocumented immigrant who is convicted of a DWI offense anywhere in the country. But the effects of the measure do not kick in after the allegations are proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
The bill would authorize state and local law enforcement agencies to issue a federal detainer to keep undocumented immigrants in custody after a DUI arrest. Local agencies would be directed to check the immigration status of a DUI arrestee if the officer has probable cause to believe the accused is undocumented.
Opponents of the bill say that it will not only lead to more racial profiling, but also takes discretion away from immigration officials. Critics argue that the bill casts too wide a net in DUI cases by mandating that U.S. Immigration Customs and Customs Enforcement automatically take alleged undocumented immigrants into custody, merely for an arrest on suspicion of DUI-at a great cost to the federal budget.
The next step for the bill is to send it on for a committee markup, which has not yet been scheduled.
Source: WECT, “Local lawyers against bill to deport illegal immigrants immediately,” Nadine Maeser, March 14, 2012