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Immigration Enforcement & Non-Violent Offenders

Posted by Matthew Green | Oct 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

For some time now, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has claimed that both it and CBP (Customs Border Protection) are focused on deportation and removal proceedings of immigrants who are violent criminals or who pose a threat to national security. However, many argue that this is not the case and too many non-violent immigrants are being deported each year.

According to a report published by, it seems that both agencies spend more time “apprehending and deporting non-violent immigrants who have only committed immigration offenses such as unlawful entry or re-entry into the United States.”

The report summarizes a survey conducted by the University of Arizona's Center for Latin American Studies. The survey identifies three immigration enforcement methods that have proven to influence and encourage an “over-emphasis on low-priority targets.” These three programs include:

  1. Operation Streamline;
  2. The Alien Transfer and Exit Program; and
  3. Secure Communities.

The survey was conducted over the years of 2010, 2011, and 2012. Questions were asked by the university in order to gain a better perspective on “recent deportees and their experiences crossing the border, being apprehended, and being repatriated to Mexico.”

(1) Operation Streamline: The idea behind Operation Streamline is simple: get as many defendants together in order do one mass trial. The group will usually consist of between 40 and 80 individuals and is represented by a “group lawyer.” While this may seem like an efficient way to conduct hearings, these individuals are not being provided with effective counsel.

Those surveyed conveyed their concerns. For example, when an interviewer asked “What did your lawyer tell you about your rights?,” 40% of respondents said they were only told to sign a form and not contest the charges being brought against them; 40% were told that they did have legal rights; 7% were told nothing or could not understand what was being said to them; 2% were asked to report any abuses against them; and 1% were checked for their actual legal status.

(2) The Alien Transfer and Exit Program (ATEP): This program's main directive is to break up smuggling networks. Here, Border Patrol transfers apprehended immigrants to different locations along the border in order to put them in unfamiliar territory. This method can lead to dangerous results. Many individuals travel together for protection and safety. When Border Patrol separates these groups, it allows them to be more vulnerable to attack.

(3) Secure Communities (S-Comm): S-Comm is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program and works to “identify immigrants in U.S. jails who are deportable under immigration law.” The program is able to identify these individuals because participating jails allow it access to its detainees' fingerprints.

S-Comm focuses more on immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a significant amount of time and have established a life here. The report concluded that “almost half of the deportees who were removed from the country through S-Comm stated that their home is in the U.S., compared to only one quarter of the other deportees.”

This report is another example of why our country's immigration system needs reform. Current immigration programs and policies have a misguided focus and therefore only help to perpetuate the problems associated with immigration enforcement.

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Partner. Green | Evans-Schroeder (formerly Law Offices of Matthew H. Green) focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...


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