Immigration courtrooms reopening after ICE review

DENVER — In a trial of a politically divisive program, U.S. prosecutors in Baltimore and Denver are reviewing thousands of deportation cases to determine which illegal immigrants might stay in the country — perhaps indefinitely — so officials can reduce an overwhelming backlog by focusing mainly on detainees with criminal backgrounds or who are deemed threats to national security.

Federal deportation hearings for non-criminal defendants released from custody were suspended Dec. 5 for the review and resume this week. Similar reviews are planned across the country to allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to target deportations of illegal immigrants with criminal records or those who have been deported previously.

Officials have not released information on how many cases will be placed on low priority based on the review. When they’re finished, cases of those here illegally but deemed not a threat to public safety or national security will be placed on administrative hold and the numbers will be released.

Citing tight budgets, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced this summer that nearly 300,000 deportation cases would be reviewed to determine which could be closed through “prosecutorial discretion.” Republicans have decried the policy as a back-door way of granting amnesty to people who are living in the U.S. illegally.

“We simply cannot adjudicate all these cases that are pending,” said ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. Some cases in Denver date to 1996, she said.

“It’s a holiday for anybody in the country illegally,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes the initiative. “They’re doing this with the intention of dismissing as many of them as they possibly can.”

Several attempts at immigration reform have failed in recent years, including the so-called DREAM Act, which would have allowed some young illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to earn legal status if they went to college or joined the military.

In June, ICE director John Morton announced that prosecutors and immigration agents would consider a defendant’s length of time in the country, ties to the community, lack of criminal history and opportunity to qualify for some form of legal status in deciding whether to press for deportation.

Baltimore has about 5,000 deportation cases pending, while Denver has about 7,800. Hearings and deportations involving criminal immigrants continued in both places; the suspended hearings dealt only with non-criminal defendants.

During the pilot program, Denver and Baltimore immigration judges were assigned to hear detainee cases elsewhere.

‘In limbo’

Before expanding the program, officials will examine the effect of the review on caseloads. They are also seeking to balance hearing high priority cases with those in which a person might have a strong case but has waited years for a hearing because of the backlog, said former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner Dorris Meissner.

Those who are offered prosecutorial discretion don’t have to accept, and can insist on having their case heard by a judge.

“Everybody thinks that people just want to have their case dismissed,” said Meissner. “If they accept prosecutorial discretion, it’s true they don’t go before a judge and they don’t get deported, but their case is in limbo.”

For some, word that their cases have been postponed brings relief — but not closure. They’re still in the country illegally.

Jesus Gerardo Noriega, 21, of Aurora, Colo., said he learned in December his case was being closed.

“I’m happy that I don’t have to show up in court every six months so they don’t deport me,” Noriega said. But, he added: “I’m in limbo. I can’t do anything.”

Noriega’s family brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was 9. His parents and three brothers live here legally, and he graduated from high school — but only applied for a work visa last year. He faced deportation after being arrested in April 2010 for driving with no license plate light.

Deportation cases have risen sharply since 2007, when Homeland Security began using fingerprints collected from those held in local jails to identify and deport criminals and repeat immigration violators. Those cases increased from about 174,000 in 2007 to about 298,000 in 2011, according to figures compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group affiliated with Syracuse University.

Immigrant advocates have blasted the fingerprint program, called Secure Communities, for subjecting people to deportation after minor traffic infractions or misdemeanors. Some state laws require police to notify ICE of suspected illegal immigrants.

But advocates say they welcome the federal review as a way to deal with a sluggish immigration court system where cases can linger for years.

“The courts are a mess,” said Susan Barciela, Miami-based policy director for Americans for Immigration Justice. “The volume keeps getting bigger and people’s rights are being violated.”

One comment

  1. IT’S imperative that Congress passes the “Legal Workforce Act and Birthright Citizenship Act,” before Present Obama and the Liberal extremist Czars uses any more special directives to negatively modify current immigration enforcement.

    Former Sen. Rick Santorum zoomed from the back of the GOP pack on immigration issues to way out FRONT at a C-SPAN televised event in South Carolina last Friday. For the first time in many years, we have a top-contender Presidential candidate who says LEGAL immigration numbers are too high! Congratulations to all of you Santorum supporters who have been pushing him to greatly improve his immigration platform. You succeeded beyond most of our wildest dreams.

    Now, the rest of you who are supporting other GOP and Democratic candidates need to increase your pressure on them to catch up to Santorum.

    IN A RELATIVELY SHORT RESPONSE AT A CANDIDATE FORUM—HE SAID, “(Immigrants) should come to this country based on a whole bunch of different criteria and one of them should not be chain immigration where relatives come into the country because somebody is here. Immediate family is one thing, but extended family is a very different thing.”

    If the United States is expected to sustaining its living standards, we must start to conserve our environment and address the use of oil, water and energy. In these current decades we have all observed the deterioration of our highways, infrastructure with clogged traffic lanes that never seem to abate? The continuous requisition for land to build homes, and stretching, concrete pavement that once was farmland. Border states where water supplies are being rationed, because of years of drought. The desperate need for refineries, because of constant production, cannot keep up with demand. Our antiquated national electrical grid that is unable to keep up with requirements, owing to the millions of illegal people who slip across our uneasy border and needing services must be modernized. America, just outside in suburban regions are growing smaller each day, just like the Amazon rain forests. We are daily encroaching on the wild creatures of our lands, who we now find foraging for food in community suburbs–that was once a wilderness. Our President should not be contemplating Amnesty for an unknown number of illegal immigrants or like other administrations keep welcoming over a million legal immigrants annually. Such is the forthcoming harbinger of Overpopulation for future generations. According to the Census Bureau with the current immigration level our population will touch close to a half a billion by 2050.

    More than 65 percent of that growth can be attributed to our current immigration rate and irrational polices. Without changing the direction of our current immigration policies, our population by the year 2100 and 2120 will attain the one billion mark. Is this what we want for our own grandchildren? Then Canadian immigration for years have welcomed without prejudice millions of Asylum seekers, but that is about to change? With Obama in charge altering the direction of our immigration laws by decree, we could become the next target for these people. A large majority of these immigrants come from countries, where there are no real functioning police records, so this country could easily become their destination for un-vetted immigrant’s future years. Obama has switched dramatically to halt the ICE effort of mass deportation and unless you have some serious criminal charges against them, there is likelihood; they could be allowed to walk.

    If the Obama presidency is recycled this country could be heading for trouble with lax incompetence of easy access of foreign nationals into through the border and by overstay visitors by aircraft. With no means of tracking aliens as other Industrial nations have accomplished and where even Mexico can track these illegal alien fugitives. But then unlike the Mexican authorities, entering illegally into our sovereign nation our government doesn’t prosecute as a FELONY. As I have said many times before, I believe this was an intended action, so millions of illegal aliens remained unafraid if confronting no real criminal measure if they could bypass the border agents. Both sides of Congress have had the perfect opportunity to trick the General audience that they were enforcing immigration laws, but really just playing lip service to this massive predicament?

    If President Obama introduces a new Immigration policy, this would be a disaster for the new generations of our children? We already settle over 1.5 million new legal immigrants each year in this nation. This is more people than any other country in the world? What we need is an amendment to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This would allow specialized people, with highly skilled abilities in Engineering, Computer and Science technologies to enter the US workforce, contributing to this countries success in the global marketplace?

    We already have millions of low skilled, many uneducated American workers who remain jobless in this economic morass. Lama Smiths E-Verify “the Legal Workforce Act.” At the very least, it is a surefire step in the right direction to obstruct illegal labor from taking American jobs. Even though E-Verify has some flaws and some illegal aliens can obtain employment, it won’t last very long before new upgraded version of E-Verify will be able to detect criminal alien workers. ICE has already gained the implementation of Mississippi’s Drivers Licensing Bureau, so as citizens WE SHOULD DEMAND THAT EVERY STATE VEHICLE DEPARTMENT GIVE ICE THE DIRECTIVE TO ACCESS THEIR PHOTO ID DATABASES, TO CROSS REFERENCE WITH ALL HIRED WORKERS BEING CONFIRMED USING E-VERIFY.

    Those hired illegally will be caught eventually when irregularities are corrected as ICE auditors return to a previous company. It’s better to have something as a deterrent, than to have nothing at all. As illegal immigrants start their movement from our nation, wages, benefits should slowly start to rise, as employers will have no choice but to hire American workers, instead of cheap labor from foreign lands. Steve King’s (R-IA) Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 (H.R.140) would amend the law so the unborn babies of illegal aliens smuggled calculatedly through borders or by international flight are ineligible for citizenship. The cost to hospitals and an array of welfare payments and entitlements is the most costly for US taxpayers totaling billions of more dollars. This is another demand, you should make of the politicians who represent your state.
    Join the TEA PARTY and fight back, before there is no way back? The TEA PARTY does not discriminate any nationality, if you arrived in this nation by—LEGAL MEANS? We can all stand with our fellow jobless countryman by Calling House and Senate Leadership NOW at 202-224-3121, which is the Capitol Switchboard.

    Be very aware that illegal aliens do vote and will in gubernatorial, county and municipal races. This has been proved beyond doubt, as ACORN and other fraudulent canvassing groups will be looking for signatures. These entities were prosecuted in eleven states and although they were dismantled, they have risen to the surface under an assumed name in other states. One thing’s for sure that without unbiased referees overlooking current and future elections, there will be forged absentee ballots and even irregularities within the confines of the voting precincts. Also I have investigated the major instigators, that are in summary been the Liberals and Democrats. Department of Justice Eric Holder, one of Obama’s Leftist hard core Czars, not only dropped the ‘Black Panther” intimidation of voters in Pennsylvania—but has been harassing sovereign states and using the judiciary undermine policing policies. This originating with Arizona that was suffering terribly from unfunded mandates, forced upon them by the courts? Public assistance programs to support illegal aliens with welfare payments, food stamps and federal low income housing.

    Currently in New York supervisors with the party affiliation have intentionally assisted in passing non-citizens as verified voters and are being prosecuted. Although voter fraud has been around for generations, all aspects of it have been ignored by the federal government as limited. However, large numbers of none citizens can have negative repercussions in close races. This will be adamantly opposed by the usual suspects, namely the open border zealots. These radical groups as La Raza, can take advantage and overturn honest elections The Tea Party leadership and members should be vigilant of irregular voting tactics as illegal aliens are a very large majority in Arizona and will commit perjury to claim a Democratic successful win.