by B.J. Delas Armas
on 1/06/2008 07:01:00 AM
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What Immigrants Can Be Deported ForLink to Article
"In the last 10 years, U.S. immigration officials have been deporting Asian Pacific American (APA) immigrants with a zeal and cunning not seen since the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1880s.
The catalyst was the new immigration legislation in 1996 that greatly expanded what’s considered a “deportable crime.” As a result, relatively minor offenses, like shoplifting or “joy-riding,” can lead to removal from the United States.
Here’s another kicker — the 1996 immigration changes are retroactive. Therefore, offenses committed long before the 1996 changes — are subject to review, detention, and expulsion. For example, a now law-abiding 50-year-old immigrant man is susceptible to deportation for a crime he committed — and served time for — as a teen 20 years ago, at an age when he could not grasp the severe consequences of his actions."
"So is anyone deportable? Pretty much — non-citizens with a criminal conviction, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), and legal immigrants such as refugees, students, business people, and those who had been involved in war or a humanitarian disaster — are considered deportable if the crime fits. And, immigration officials said being married to a U.S. citizen doesn’t automatically guarantee that you’re safe.
Surely then, only hardened criminals and violent felons are deported, right? Actually, any violation of your status in the United States can potentially lead to deportation proceedings. This includes staying beyond the period authorized, as in student visas, or entering without proper documents.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data in a 2007 Human Rights Watch report, 65 percent of immigrants deported for crimes in 2005 had been convicted of non-violent offenses, including non-violent theft offenses such as shoplifting; 21 percent were deported for offenses involving violence against people; and 15 percent were deported for “other” crimes. Currently, 2,000 Cambodians are detained in the United States, while 5,000 Vietnamese are imprisoned until the government of Vietnam accepts deportees, which it currently does not, or until they are released through a waiver or appeal. To date, over half a million people have been deported from American shores.
As reported by Human Rights Watch, many of those deported arrived in the United States as children and were lawful permanent residents who lived legally in the country for decades. The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) confirms this in an earlier 2002 report (the year the Cambodian government declared its repatriation agreement with the United States, which stated it would now accept deportees) which reported the immigrants were an average of nine years old when they entered America and had lived in the country for an average of 20 years."