Monday, September 24, 2007

Immigration Limbo

When ancient Christian theologians began examining the system of eternal rewards and punishments manifested in the concepts of heaven and hell, they were soon faced with a conundrum. What would the fates be of those virtuous souls who had lived and died long before Christ's earthy arrival, or those who died in infancy before baptism? They neither qualified for heavenly inclusion nor deserved condemnation to hell.

The wise biblical scholars decided that there existed a place that was neither heaven nor hell. ...A place for the righteous unsaved called Limbo, somewhere between heavenly bliss and the tortures of eternal damnation..

Today in the United States there exists for millions of foreign-born legal residents a different kind of Limbo. A legal limbo for those who have not been afforded the full rights and privileges guaranteed by citizenship but are spared the daily hell of the living as outcasts as undocumented immigrants.

Perhaps the cruelest part about Legal Resident Limbo is that most who live there, not unlike un-baptized infants of the "Inferno," have no idea that they have not reached the Promised Land. They go about their daily lives believing that, unlike the undocumented, their status assures them some protections against unwarranted detention, lack of due process, or deportation.

Most believe that if they commit minor infractions of the law they will be afforded the same privileges of all Americans. They believe that if convicted of a minor offense, once paying their debt to society, will be free to go on with their lives.

They do not to live in fear of being pulled over at traffic stops or calling for emergency assistance. They're legal residents after all; they have no reason to fear the law.

Yet for many, they are living in a Limbo of false security.

In 1996 Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and a dramatic erosion of due process and civil liberties protection for noncitizens began.

Expanding the grounds for deportation and redefining what constitutes an aggravated felony when committed by noncitizens , the 1996 law subjected many long-term immigrants to mandatory detention and automatic deportation for relatively insignificant crimes such as shoplifting or marijuana possession.

Today, in our current climate of fear and intolerance, these laws are now being applied retroactively, forcing many first time offenders and those who were found guilty of youthful indiscretions, in some cases, many decades ago, to be expelled.

"Monica" has been a legal permanent resident in U.S.for 24 years. Born in Bolivia, she moved here at the age of three. She was a good student and daughter, and received a bachelor's degree in Social Work. But like many young people, she made a mistake in her youth. She got arrested once on a minor drug charge for picking up drugs for a friend before a night on the town. The crime was minor, and resulted in nothing more "accommodation ticket" as its penalty. "Monica" then went on with her life.

Yet, Six years later, upon returning from a family vacation, she was detained for the same prior drug charge. She is currently in detention, facing deportation for a crime she had already paid the price for.

These stories are becoming all too common as the concept of due process disappears for those living in immigration Limbo.

More Information on detention and deportation:
Restoring the Right to Due Process PDF. (Breakthough /Detention Watch)
Detention Watch


Anonymous said...

Wow, Duke that is a powerful video


Yave said...

Criminal lawyers routinely advise their clients to plead to charges which then have devastating immigration effects. What do they care, it may be years later by the time the effects are known.

I know of a woman who came here at the age of 3 and then at one point was detained for 3 years while her previous attorney used up the money her family had paid and then basically abandoned her. You can't imagine what the uncertainty and fear does to someone in that situation. They don't know if they'll be imprisoned for 5 weeks or 5 years. They don't know if they'll be deported tomorrow. Detainees are routinely transferred across state lines with little or no notice, making it difficult to represent them.

It's important to fight to restore due process to the immigration system, but it's also important for LPRs to naturalize and vote. Many LPRs never take the time to naturalize for one reason or another and then get into trouble down the road by staying outside the U.S. too long or getting charged with some minor crime that has major immigration consequences. Naturalize and vote!

Yave said...

Also, via Andrew Sullivan, we're now arresting more people for simple possession of marijuana than for all violent crimes combined. Simple possession is not always a deportable offense, but can be in some circumstances or in conjunction with certain other convictions.

Also, I should add a caveat to my comment above: trying to naturalize with certain convictions can land an LPR in deportation proceedings. It's always important to seek legal advice before naturalizing if there have been any convictions, just to be sure. Check out this NYSDA page for more info.

Chiara said...

The video was very powerful. Unfortunly my family has been there and are still living in a place between earth and hell although most of the time it seems we are closer to hell. My husband of 18 yrs. the father of our two children was deported in 2003. He was a LPR at the time now he has no status. When he was picked up I told him it was a mistake that he was legal and they would release him. They did release him a month later in Mexico. Leaving me and our children without the one person who supported us. I can not even begin to describe what we have been through in the last four years but let me tell you this, the effect on the children left behind will be felt at a later time and I am sure it will not be positive. I am holding our family together for now but as I have a fatal illiness I dont know what will become of my family. We are about to go into the 10th circuit court to try to get his case reopened but I am no longer believing in my government. I will do what I need for my children and my husband unlike most others will no come back illegally, but when people talk about immigration reform they first need to fix the immigration reform of 1996.I dont believe the forfathers of this country would agree on seperate laws depending on the basis of where you were born. If you are in this country legally then there is one set of laws,no one should be deported on the grounds of double jepoardy because thats exactly what homeland security is doing.