Like other places in the U.S., over the last two years Florida has seen a surge in undocumented immigrants fleeing gang violence in Central America. The surge began in 2014 and is continuing. The Department of Homeland Security expects that the number of families from Central America entering the U.S. illegally this year will be higher than the number in 2014. Now the Obama administration is delaying the deportation proceedings of about 56,000 of these immigrants for several years.
The delays are apparently the result of a cost-saving decision. Many immigrants who were supposed to receive GPS ankle bracelets failed to show up to have them fitted, in part because of unclear instructions. Because the government does not have to pay a bracelet monitoring fee of $4 to $8 a day for those who failed to have them fitted, these people will have their cases delayed.
Not all cases are being delayed. In an unfair and ironic twist, immigrants who reported as ordered and had the ankle bracelets fitted will see their cases expedited. In addition, cases involving unaccompanied minors who crossed the border since 2014 will continue to be pushed forward. Many of these people will no longer be able to get volunteer lawyers and will have to appear in court without one.
Those facing deportation proceedings do have defenses available, as we discussed in a recent post on this blog. Many of the Central American immigrants have sought asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution. An undocumented immigrant facing deportation or removal proceedings can also seek an adjustment of status or appeal the deportation decision. Prompt action is essential, however.
Source: New York Times, “Obama Administration Is Quietly Delaying Thousands of Deportation Cases,” Caitlin Dickerson, Oct. 6, 2016