Immigration Newsletter

Monday, December 21, 2009 | 12/20/2009 | Deported adults leave U.S. citizen children behind | 12/20/2009 | Deported adults leave U.S. citizen children behind

Here's an all too typical story of how Congress (in an effort to look tough on illegal immigration) made poor public policy by removing discretion from immigration enforcement and immigration judges.

It happens all the time - not just in the immigration context. The war on drugs with its diparate treatment of "crack" cocaine offenders; the federal "three strikes" policy; mandatory federal sentencing guidelines. All of these expressions of Congressional bravado have been revisited over time because of their unfair or self-defeating effects in the real world outside Washington, D.C.

Law enforcement and judges need to have the ability (known as discretion) to decide how to apply and enforce the law under differing circumstances. This article discusses parents who have lived in the United States for close to 30 years raising a family of two U.S. born children (one heading off to college) - there is no discussion of these people being criminals or on welfare or not paying taxes or running up bills at the emergency room. They even have other family who have filed papers to get them legal status more than 10 years ago.

This should be an easy case...where the factors in favor of letting the family stay together outweigh the harms of the violation of the immigration law. Other cases may not be so easy, but the law gives the enforcement officers and the immigration judge's almost no ability to take each such case on its own merits. It's time to rethink that policy as well.

It is time for Congress to stop trying to look like tough guys and to give the people who actually do the work of immigration back the tools they need to do their jobs wisely.

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