Since Donald Trump became president of the United States, immigrants who have lived longer in the United States and established deep roots have increasingly become targets for deportation.
Over the month of March, four in ten deportation cases filed in immigration court involved people who had been in the US for two years or more, and fully two in ten involved people who had been in the US for five years or more, according to new data released by the research center TRAC. By contrast, only one deportation case filed in ten involved new arrivals. Most people apprehended outside of the border region have the right to see an immigration judge, as opposed to those deported from the border.
Since people apprehended in the interior of the country are more likely to be living in the United States, these numbers are consistent with a previously-reported 40 percent increase in interior arrests in 2017. They show a big change from as recently as the month of December 2016 – the last month of the Obama administration — when three-quarters of defendants in deportation proceedings then being filed were new arrivals to the US. Only six percent had been living in the US for two years or more. TRAC’s calculations show a sharp uptick in the average length of stay of people being brought before deportation court starting with the implementation of President Trump’s immigration executive orders in early 2017.
Deporting more immigrants who have lived for years in the US means ripping more people away from US-citizen spouses and children, homes, and jobs. Because US law fails to systematically consider these ties, US deportations, as we’ve documented, regularly run roughshod over the right to non-interference with home and family.
To meet US human rights obligations, US law should be changed to ensure that an immigrants’ family and other ties to the United States are weighed in the balance against the government’s interest in deporting that person., .
Currently, there is virtually no avenue under US law to allow even deeply rooted unauthorized immigrants to avoid deportation and gain legal status. Deeply-rooted legal immigrants who comiitted even very minor crimes decades ago can be subject to automatic detention and deportation away from their lives and families. People facing deportation are often unable to effectively present arguments against their deportation, because they often cannot afford lawyers or access reliable legal advice, a problem the Trump administration is poised to compound with cuts to detention center legal assistance programs.
The Trump administration’s increasing focus on long-term noncitizen residents – both authorized and unauthorized – casts a harsh light not only on the Administration itself, but also on the broken and abusive nature of US immigration law.
(Author Clara Long researches immigration and border policy with the US Program at Human Rights Watch. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, she was a Teaching Fellow with the Stanford Law School International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic. Clara has researched and advocated for human rights in Bolivia, Brazil, Panama, and the United States, including litigation in the Inter-American system. She is the co-producer of an award-winning documentary, Border Stories, about perspectives on immigration enforcement from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. She has represented detained immigrants with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, and covered Venezuela as a freelance journalist. Clara graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and holds Masters degrees from the London School of Economics in Environment and Development and from Stanford’s Graduate Program in Journalism. Long speaks Spanish, French, and Portuguese.)
(A man, who was deported from the U.S. seven months ago, touches the fingertips of his nephew across a fence separating Mexico and US, as photographed from Tijuana, Mexico, March 4, 2017. Photo: Reuters)