As many people who live in the San Diego area know, immigration issues are daunting for those who do not understand the complex legal process involved in immigration law. Many people living in this country may be affected by a new policy implemented by the United States Border Patrol. The Patrol is changing its policy on allowing illegal immigrants to return to their country voluntarily with no punishment. The change, announced on January 17, outlines what amounts to the toughest immigration policy changes since Operation Hold the Line began in 1993. Immigration and human rights advocates denounced the Border Patrol’s new policy concerning deportation and removal proceedings as misguided and impractical.
The acting commissioner for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency has not eliminated voluntary departures. Rather, he claims it added new administrative procedures to the deportation process, dependent upon the criminal background of an individual. Recidivism is also a factor in the process, and the United States may choose to prosecute those who continue to cross the border illegally. In some cases, if the immigrant is not a high recidivist risk, formal deportation procedures may be used.
The new initiative also calls for ways to break the cycle of smuggling by deporting illegal immigrants farther away from their port of entry. If the United States were to return them to their port of entry, officials believe the likelihood is high that they would be smuggled back across the border quickly after their return. Border Patrol apprehensions continue to drop from year to year, but a spokesperson for the agency did not have statistics on how many of those apprehensions involved deportation and removal proceedings and how many were voluntarily returned.
Many immigration advocates decry the new changes. The policy director for the Border Network of Human Rights stated that he would like to see the final details of the policy because it appeared to be a strategy to punish people who are only here seeking work.
Anyone who is facing deportation and removal proceedings may benefit from speaking to someone knowledgeable in immigration law. Representation for detainees is available through several avenues and could ensure that immigrants are aware of all the rights to which they are entitled under United States law.
Source: El Paso Times, “Border Patrol will toughen voluntary returns; immigrants will be sent farther away,” Aileen B. Flores and Diana Washington Valdez, Jan. 18, 2012