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Matthew Kolken on Deportation And Removal

State Push-Back Against Immigration Holds for Minor Crimes

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Two States are pushing back against the Obama administration's overtly punitive deportation hold policies bringing some "common sense" to the enforcement of our immigration laws.

At the State level in Massachusetts, two Bills have been introduced. The Trust Act, H.1613, prevents State officials from handing over immigrants released by judges and magistrates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The Safe Driving Act, H.3285, allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license if they pass the test and have liability insurance.

At the local level in the State of Washington, the King County Council voted on Monday to refuse to honor federal immigration authorities’ requests to hold immigrants arrested for low-level crimes. Individuals convicted of serious crimes, such as violent assaults, sex crimes, and mid-level offenses including burglaries, still may be subject to an immigration hold. The purpose of the measure is to afford individuals the ability to report crimes that they would ordinarily overlook out of fear that a family member would be deported if the police got involved. The hope is to build trust between local police and the immigrant community.

Common sense indeed.

Statistics show that only about a third (38%) of all individuals subject to an ICE immigration hold nationwide have any criminal record. This statistic includes individuals convicted for minor traffic violations, i.e., driving while brown. If you exclude traffic violations and marijuana possession from the 38% statistic only 26% of all individuals subject to an ICE detainer have any conviction. Considering the fact that only a small percentage of the deportation filings in the Immigration Courts are based on alleged criminal activity, these State-wide efforts should be supported.

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