Sunday, April 29, 2012

IMMIGRATION » Many are rejecting U.S. offer to shelve deportation cases

I could probably get in trouble for posting the following full-length piece, but since I don't make a dime off this blog, I am going to take the chance as an advocate. 

To all the people who claim "illegals" don't want to become citizens, I offer this article in addition to my own anecdotes which naysayers dismiss but might at least consider.  Unfortunately, extremists and racists will reject any attempt to resolve the immigration issue peacefully and fairly.  All the while FAIR, a nativist hate group holding clout with politicians of their ilk, carries on with its mission to eliminate options for hard working people who have been contributing to our economy and society for decades.

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IMMIGRATION »
Many are rejecting U.S. offer to shelve deportation cases


The Associated Press


LOS ANGELES — Miguel Rojano might have been elated when the federal government offered to put his deportation case on hold under a new initiative to focus resources on rid­ding the country of hard­ened
criminals. But the Mexican news­paper delivery supervisor — who was raising his five American-born sons in Chicago after living in the country for more than two decades —actually turned down the government’s offer to try his chances at getting a green card in im­migration court instead.

“Seeing how sure my lawyer was about my case, I said, let’s fight it,” said Rojano, who won his case earlier this year. “I’m glad, because if they had closed my case, they wouldn’t have given me my residency.”

While the U.S. govern­ment is offering to shelve some deportation cases, some immigrants are re­jecting the deal, preferring to take a shot at winning asylum or a green card in immigration court. That’s because the government’s offer wouldn’t end the specter of deportation and doesn’t promise a work permit or green card.

Immigrant advocates say another problem is the gov­ernment is only offering the deal — likened by some to a plea bargain — to immi­grants with the most com­pelling cases, who tend to be long-time residents and well-known community members with a decent shot at winning their cases in court.

“It’s been a mixed bag,” said Daniel McCreary, an immigration attorney in Illi­nois, who has turned down at least five offers to have his clients’ cases shelved for precisely this reason. “Typically the cases we’ve been contacted on we’ve declined to accept it.”

The federal government last year vowed to review the country’s 300,000 pend­ing immigration court cas­es and exercise so-called prosecutorial discretion to shift its focus to those cases involving convicted criminals wreaking havoc on local neighborhoods. As of mid-April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement had reviewed more than 70 percent of the files and de­cided to offer to temporar­ily suspend roughly 7.5 per­cent of deportation cases, agency officials said.

The agency declined to state how many of the 16,500 immigrants had ac­cepted
the deal. So far, only 2,700 cases actually have been put on hold. In many instances, the process is pending pa­perwork and background checks, immigration offi­cials said.

In December, ICE attor­neys began reviewing their caseloads to see which im­migrants should qualify for the program, which mainly consists of administrative closure — an indefinite suspension of their cases but one that can be lifted at any time. Once the offers have been approved by a supervisor, attorneys have been reaching out to immi­gration attorneys or raising the issue directly with im­migrants who lack lawyers in immigration court.

The government hopes to whittle down its caseload since the agency only has the manpower and resources to deport a finite number of immi­grants. In the last fiscal year, ICE deported nearly 400,000 people, an all-time high for the agency.

“We need to get a handle on this exploded docket and figure out a way where ICE can prosecute the cases that really do warrant our resources and skills — the bad guys,” said Jim Stolley, ICE’s director of Field Legal Operations.
For some immigrants, prosecutorial discretion is a lifeline. Immigrants wait­ing in line for a green card after being sponsored by relatives could use the ex­tra time. Others, who may have lived here for years and have clean records but don’t qualify for legal resi­dency because they don’t have American relatives, may have no other way to stay.

Concepcion Velazquez was sponsored for a green card by her American sister but must wait roughly two more years to get one. The 43-year-old from Fairfield in Northern California also has applied for a visa for
crime victims who collabo­rate with law enforcement after a neighbor fired a gun into their living room.

Those are good prospects for being allowed to stay here, said Kevin Crabtree, her attorney. But Velazquez and her husband have no legal status today, which is why getting their case shelved by the government was such a relief.
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