In its relentless effort to widen the net of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation, the Trump administration is now reportedly seeking permission from judges to reopen thousands of deportation cases that were previously suspended by authorities.
According to the data provided by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, attorneys have requested the reactivation of nearly 8,000 deportation cases which were off the court’s dockets due to one reason or another.
Thousands of cases that were deemed a low priority were administratively closed under former President Barak Obama. Undocumented immigrants, who somehow had ties with the country or had no history of criminal convictions, were reprieved by the Obama administration mainly because courts were dealing with a major backlog.
But, the current administration appears to spare no one and people who might have thought they were off the hook now have to go through the tedious process once again. Also, if things don’t end up in their favor, they will have to most likely leave the country.
“DHS's increase in motions to re-calendar is part of a broad, administration-wide effort to increase deportations,”said Sarah Pierce, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank. “The effort has been accelerated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions' ruling that immigration judges do not have the authority to administratively close cases, and subsequent DHS guidance to ICE attorneys instructing them to re-calendar every single case that has ever been administratively closed.”
The recent report came months after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seized the fates of thousands of immigrants’ cases by exercising unprecedented control over immigration courts. Sessions issued a directive that limited the judges from indefinitely suspending deportation cases, a practice he said “resulted in illegal aliens remaining indefinitely in the United States without any formal legal status.”
For its part, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said they were seeking to reopen cases where individuals had since been convicted of or arrested for a crime. It said they were particularly interested in cases which were closed using prosecutorial discretion, as now they wanted to find out if reasons for discretion were still applicable.
However, Dana Marks, an immigration judge in San Francisco and a spokesperson for the National Association of Immigration Judges, believed unlike the previous administrations, the current government is not just singling out closed cases in which the individuals were charged or convicted on a new crime.
“They want all of them back on the docket because all of these individuals have been identified in their mind as having a potential ground of removability,” she said.
The renewed interest of the administration in closed cases is bound to stir fears amongst thousands of undocumented immigrants who thought they were safe from deportation.
“For the over 355,000 immigrants whose cases have been administratively closed, this is frightening. They have been living in relative peace knowing that they are not in active deportation proceedings,” said Pierce. “Now, under the Trump administration, they face a renewed chance at being deported.”
Banner / Thumbnail : REUTERS/Joey Roulette