The new record of deportations reached this year, along with the change in the detention policy announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), leaves behind a bittersweet taste.
Without a doubt, it is beneficial that ICE decided last Friday to issue new guidelines for its detention “holds” or detainers. These guidelines now include concrete crimes and legal situations for which a detainee is to be deported. For example, an undocumented immigrant who drives drunk is in that category, as well as those who illegally leave the scene of an accident.
What is good about this regulation is that it removes the possibility of abusing discretion, which is one of the big problems of Secure Communities.
What is worrisome is that ICE announced this change along with a new record number of deportations for 2012. That combination raises the question of how many of the 409,849 deportees would still be in the country if this rule had been changed earlier.
Or even simpler: Why wasn’t this sort of clarification added from the beginning?
These numbers are not cold statistics: they involve lives and families being separated. ICE can say that 55% of those deported this year had criminal backgrounds, giving a breakdown to reduce the number of people whose deportation in reality was not justified.
But the agency cannot cover up the fact that between 2010 and 2012, almost 250,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported and because of that, today thousands of children are in foster homes.
It would seem that for some reason, priority is given to the offense committed by the undocumented persons over their ties to the community and American families–factors that according to ICE must now be taken into account when deciding whether to deport someone.
These developments regarding ICE once again confirm the need for comprehensive immigration reform with a more consistent policy for deportations. Meanwhile, the state’s TRUST Act is the only defense against the comings and goings at ICE.