As readers of this blog know, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) often issues studies that make us cringe. Earlier this week, however, the DC-based restrictionist organization issued a report that made us laugh. Pseudonymously written by a retired government employee, the report purports to explain the “basics” of the deportation process. At more than 10,000 words, the report contains too many false analogies, misleading statistics, and non sequiturs to individually refute. But a few of the more outlandish arguments are too good not to pass up.

  • The report states that immigrants facing deportation receive too many of the protections given criminal defendants. Yet as anyone with passing familiarity of the removal process knows, immigrants have long been denied the very rights that Americans expect from a civilized justice system. Unlike criminal defendants, immigrants facing deportation have no right to a jury, Miranda warnings, or counsel provided by the government; can be deported on the basis of hearsay and other evidence not admissible in criminal trials; and are often transferred far from the site of arrest, making it difficult to retain an attorney and collect evidence needed to bolster their case. In the end, our justice system should provide protections not because of who receives them, but because of who we are and the values we cherish as a nation.
  • The report also laments the number of immigrants allowed to appear before an immigration judge at all, rather than face summary deportation by officers in the field. The report recommends greater use of “expedited removal” and “stipulated removal orders,” procedures by which immigrants never see a judge and either don’t have or give up their right to appeal. Implementing this proposal would not only trample the minimal rights that immigrants now enjoy and further encourage manipulation and abuse by immigration officers, but would likely provoke legal challenges that would tie up the courts for years.
  • The report criticizes ICE for not detaining enough people and suggests that the government should drastically increase the number of immigrants it holds in jails. Already, ICE detains nearly 400,000 immigrants per year at a cost of nearly $1.8 billion. Detaining even more immigrants—including those with no criminal records and who pose no threat to the community, as the author suggests—is unpalatable both from a fiscal and a humanitarian perspective.
  • Finally, the report frets that ICE officers could be subjected to lawsuits if an immigrant they decline to deport for policy reasons later commits a violent crime. Yet in ginning up fears about frivolous lawsuits, the report itself makes a frivolous argument. The author cites not one example of such a suit being filed, much less a law that would permit immigration officers to be sued for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in the first place.

Amusing as some of the report’s assertions may be, its true intent is no laughing matter. The expansion of Secure Communities and other programs that rely on local police to identify undocumented residents has created crushing backlogs in our nation’s immigration courts. Rather than seek the hiring of more immigration judges, or giving them the tools necessary to manage their docket, restrictionsists are pushing for immigrants to be deprived of hearings in the first place.

While the problems plaguing our immigration courts are a prominent symptom of our broken immigration system, the solution is not to mean-spiritedly detain more people or deport them outside the existing process. Instead, it is to provide immigrants more of the rights available to criminal defendants, and to use enforcement resources wisely. This means setting priorities and exercising prosecutorial discretion in appropriate cases, something the Obama Administration has expressed its commitment to do. Just as criminal prosecutors routinely dismiss charges against minor criminal suspects, the federal government need not deport every undocumented immigrant they happen to encounter. In that respect, the truth could hardly be more basic.

Photo by Icars