Separated & Deported

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Immigrants are already under attack and demonized in the current political climate, but they are exceptionally vulnerable when they are arrested and ensnared in the criminal legal system for any reason. 

While recent administrations have latched onto the notion that "criminal aliens" deserve deportation, a system as sprawling, racist, punitive and error-prone as our criminal justice system cannot serve as a reliable measure of who deserves to stay or go.


Whatiscrim Imm



The Problem

The entangling of federal immigration law and local law enforcement rips apart families and communities and undermines the local administration of justice without making us safer

An arrest for even a low level offense, let alone a conviction, can lead to ICE arrest, indefinite detention, and deportation proceedings for immigrants who are documented and undocumented. And yes, even U.S. Citizens too. 



For those who lack legal status in the US, have immigration applications pending, or are here as visitors or students, simply getting arrested can mean federal detection, detention and deportation — even if the alleged crime is minor, or the case is ultimately thrown out. 



For those who have legal status in the US, like a green card — an arrest is also profoundly dangerous.  A conviction, even for a low-level or non-violent offense like possession of marijuana, can lead to deportation, denial of re-entry into the US or denial of any future chance at citizenship no matter how long you've been in the country.




The truth is that immigrants commit crimes at far lower rates than native-born citizens. Our neighbors, families and friends, who are presumed innocent, with no criminal records, or with decades-old arrests, have become victims of a deportation machine that is identified more by its inhumanity than by any measure of justice or fairness.



Alex's Story

A green card holder, who was in the United States for 25 years, with a young son. In 2009 he pleaded guilty to a drug offense. A year later, he was arrested by ICE. He was detained for 6 months without a bail hearing.  The life he created for himself and his family over 25 years was ripped away.



A Deportation Machine


Increase in arrests nationwide by ICE in 2017.


Increase in arrests nationwide by ICE of those with no criminal record.


Increase in arrests by ICE in NYC courts.


Daily average population in immigration detention nationwide.

Since 2017, we have seen a dramatic increase in immigration enforcement through local justice systems, using local police, jails, or courthouses, including housing and family court, to hunt immigrants.


The federal authorities claim they are making America safe again, but their immigration enforcement policies are making all of us less safe.

Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez



This is what it looks like


When ICE Is Outside Our Doors


When ICE is Inside Our Homes


When ICE is In Our Communities, In Our Streets


If ICE Arrests Us



The process is the punishment

Unlike criminal defendants, immigrants facing deportation have no right to a lawyer, no right to a bail hearing pending their proceedings, and no right to a speedy trial. 

"It is treatment we associate with regimes we revile as unjust," Federal Judge, Katherine B. Forrest observed. "Regimes where those who have long lived in a country may be taken without notice from streets, homes and work. And sent away.”




Raiding local justice systems is wrong & counterproductive

Immigration consequences are disproportionatetly harsh

Tying immigration outcomes to criminality tacks adds wildly disproportionate punishments to relatively minoir crime or time already served. When a turnstile jump, weed possession, or dismissed criminal case can separate you from your family and banish you from the the country, the punishment far exceeds the crime.

This is a tough one for a lot of folks to grasp

The laws that govern who can enter and remain in the US are federal civil laws, not criminal laws, which means violating them is a civil violation, but not a crime. This distinction is critical, because if simply being in the US illegally were a crime, then ICE arrests would trigger all kinds of legal protections — like the right to a lawyer and to speedy and public trials — that Trump and ICE don’t want immigrants to have.

The entanglement of criminal & immigration law hurts us

Regardless of how you feel about border security, the reality is many immigrants are here and have lived in the US for years or decades. They have American families. They run American businesses. They serve in the American military. They pay taxes, even those who are undocumented. They also are central to the administration of our local justice systems — serving as police officers, correction officers, witnesses, informants, jurors and first responders. Aggressive, arbitrary and racially-motivated immigration policies damage American institutions.

In fact they make us safer

Most of the “crimes” immigrants get arrested for are not the sort of violent stuff Trump and his supporters love to attribute to immigrants. But even in cities where immigrants get into some trouble, immigration still enhances public safety. Research shows not only that immigrants commit fewer crimes overall than native-born Americans, but that large urban influxes of immigrants consistently correlate with a decrease in violent crime.



Separation & deportation is not the answer

America needs comprehensive immigration reform. A smart, compassionate and sustainable approach to answering the millions of global citizens escaping violence, crushing poverty and environmental degradation and who seek opportunities in the US. One that’s consistent with our rich and successful history of welcoming immigrants.

In the meantime, we work to defend and protect our clients, their families, and their communities in encounters with immigration enforcement. 


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Got a story to tell?

Have you, a loved one, or a client experienced the intersection of criminal and immigration enforcement? Whether you’re a fellow public defender or other frontline practitioner, or directly impacted in some way way by the system, we’d love to hear from you.

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