Last month, immigration authorities performed a four-day sweep in Southern California, resulting in 244 immigrants with criminal records taken into custody. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, over half of those taken into custody had at least one felony conviction (generally violent felonies, weapon charges, or sexual abuse charges), and all had been convicted of at least one crime. The rest had multiple misdemeanors. Approximately two-thirds of the immigrants taken into custody were Mexican.
Until the practice was deemed unconstitutional, immigration officials had relied on local prisons to assist with the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions. Officials would ask prisons to hold the offending immigrants after their sentence had ended so that federal agents could take them into custody and deport them. Last year, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that this practice violates the constitution. Accordingly, California passed a law that protects all immigrants except those with the most serious criminal charges against them.
David Marin, deputy field officer for the immigration agency’s enforcement and removal operations in Southern California explained that “by doing these operations periodically, we show everyone what we can do to make the community safer. Because local law enforcement has not been able to cooperate with us like they used to, they have been releasing criminal aliens into the community, and we have to spend a lot of resources to be able to find them.”
This past summer in California, the debate over deportations of immigrants with criminal records was renewed with the murders of two women. In July, a woman was murdered in San Francisco by an immigrant who had been deported back to Mexico more than once. Also, last month, an illegal immigrant in Santa Maria allegedly raped and beat a woman to death in her home.
Officials justify the sweep and subsequent deportation of immigrants with criminal records by saying that this operation focuses on dangerous members of the community that have been convicted of murder, sexual abuse, or drunk driving. “What we’re doing is targeted enforcement — these are all people who are not only here illegally, but are convicted criminals,” Mr. Marin said. “These are people who are preying on our communities. We’re not just rounding up the lady selling tamales on the corner or the guy standing in front of a Home Depot.”
Those immigrants who have been arrested in the sweep without previous deportations will be entitled to an administrative hearing. Those taken into custody with criminal conviction and previous deportations will most likely be deported quickly.
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If you or a loved one has questions about immigration law or deportation, it is essential that you retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The Leslie Legal Group has extensive experience helping clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.