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Data shows no relief in immigration backlog; feds back prosecutorial discretion, P. 2

In the last post, this blog opened a discussion of recent data showing an increasing backlog in deportation proceedings in immigration courts.

The federal government blames the data used by TRAC at Syracuse University for the perception that deportation cases keep piling up-even after the policy shift toward more prosecutorial discretion. The feds say that TRAC handpicked its data to serve an agenda.

The Syracuse University-TRAC data indicates that a small number of removal proceedings in immigration court involve immigrants who have been convicted of crimes, a priority for deportation under the June 2011 memo. The data says that the national average is around 8 percent of removal cases.

An immigration official says that the Syracuse University data does not track immigrants who are deported without going through immigration court proceedings.

The director of communication for Immigration and Customs Enforcement says, for instance, that TRAC's data erroneously equates the number of removal cases coded a s criminal removals in immigration court as being representative of the overall number of cases involving criminal removals. He says "ICE is not required to file charging documents in immigration court asserting criminal grounds of removal for an immigrant who has committed a crime and is in the country illegally."

He says many deportation cases are handled outside of the immigration courts, through "voluntary, administrative, expedited and stipulated removals, as well as the reinstatement of previous removal orders."

An associate professor at Syracuse says that additional data concerning the administrative processes would be beneficial, but the federal government does not seem willing to furnish such data.

The ICE communications director says that Department of Homeland Security privacy policies do not allow such disclosures. He says that roughly half, or 51 percent, of ICE removals this year have involved immigrants convicted of crimes.

Classifications of immigrants seem to be an issue, according to some in the field of immigration law. The president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association says that, while ICE has increased the number of criminal immigrant deportations recently, the classifications of immigrants have also shifted. For instance, she says a person who has lived for a decade or more in the U.S. who briefly exits the country to attend a funeral or deal with a family emergency may be detained upon re-entry as a recent entrant.

Immigration appears to remain as a hot-button political issue. But for anyone facing potential removal issues, immigration is more than just a political policy. It is important for people in South Florida who are facing immigration issues to consider speaking with a licensed and experienced Miami immigration law attorney for help with the legal issues surrounding an immigration case.

Source: The Texas Tribune, "Feds Defend Deportation Rates as Backlog Swells," Julián Aguilar, July 24, 2012

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