A Nation of (Deported) Immigrants

A Nation of (Deported) Immigrants
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   ADAM GOODMAN  Sometime in 2012, Valente Valenzuela and hisyounger brother Manuel will find out whetherthey will be deported from the United States.Valente, sixty-two, and Manuel, fifty-eight,were born in Mexico, but moved to the UnitedStates in 1955, and have lived here since.Their mother was a U.S. citizen, and theirfather became a naturalized citizen. Accordingto the Valenzuelas’ attorney, the brothers, whoare legal permanent residents, should havebeen granted citizenship upon moving to the United States as children, but were not. Eachbrother served in Vietnam: Valente is a deco-rated U.S. Army veteran, injured in combatand awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery;and Manuel is a former Marine. Both sufferfrom post-traumatic stress disorder, whichthey say contributed to their respective run-ins with the law—Valente was involved in amisdemeanor domestic violence disputeeleven years ago, and Manuel was chargedwith misdemeanor resisting arrest twenty-fiveyears ago. Yet, despite having served theircountry and paid their dues, the brothersreceived letters from the Department of Homeland Security (Manuel in 2005 andValente in 2009) notifying them that they willface deportation hearings. If deported, theValenzuelas will lose their veterans’ benefits,including counseling for their PTSD, and willbe forced to leave the country they fought forand have called home for the last fifty-sixyears.The Valenzuelas’ cases are not unique. TheObama administration removed more peopleduring each of the last two years than in anyother year in U.S. history. Despite the admin-istration’s insistence that Immigration andCustoms Enforcement (ICE) is focusing itsefforts on dangerous, violent criminals, bothanecdotal and statistical evidence proveotherwise. In 2009, the number of removedindividuals who had never been convicted of a crime was more than twice the number of those that had. In October 2010, ICE releasedits 2010 deportation statistics, celebrating theremoval of a record 195,772 criminals.Although this represents a 52.5 percentincrease from 2009, it should not overshadowthe fact that non-criminals still made up morethan half of the 392,862 removals. Moreover,some of the criminals removed were peoplelike the Valenzuelas, who committed minoroffenses years—or decades—ago.How can the cases of Valente and ManuelValenzuela and the hundreds of thousands of others like them be explained? An exami-nation of the history of deportation and ananalysis of recent immigration policies suggestsome possible answers to this question andreveal that (1) an inadequate definition of deportation has obscured its magnitude, both past and present; (2) deportation has playedan increasingly important, although underap- preciated, role in U.S. immigration policysince 1950; and (3) a significant gap existsbetween the Obama administration’s officialenforcement policy and the implementation of  policy at the local level. Removal and Return As Daniel Kanstroom, a lawyer and historianof immigration policy, has pointed out, theexpulsion impulse has existed since the daysof the Founding Fathers. However, it is onlyin the last sixty years that the detention anddeportation regime has been fully established.In order to understand what has happened,we must first question the government’s (andthe media’s) definition of deportation. Thenumber of people deported each year iscommonly equated with the number of people“removed.” According to the 2009 Office of Immigration Statistics Yearbook, removals, or  ARTICLES 64DISSENT  SPRING 2011  A Nation of (Deported) Immigrants  SPRING 2011 DISSENT65 DEPORTED IMMIGRANTS formal deportations, are “the compulsory andconfirmed movement of an inadmissible ordeportable alien out of the United States basedon an order of removal. An alien who isremoved has administrative or criminal conse-quences placed on subsequent reentry…” Using this widely accepted definition, thenumber of deportations since 1892 (the yearthe federal government began keeping immi-gration statistics) exceeds five million. Thisdrastically undercounts the number of indi-viduals who have been required to leave thecountry.A more accurate definition is the sum totalof removals and returns, also known asinformal deportations or voluntary depar-tures—which are voluntary in name only.“Return” is “the confirmed movement of aninadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal. Most of the voluntary returns are of Mexican nationals who have been appre-hended by the U.S. Border Patrol…” Thisshould not be confused with return migration,which usually is voluntary in nature. Officialreturns require individuals to depart thecountry by order of the federal immigrationbureaucracy, although not by an order of removal issued by an immigration court.Starting in the mid-1960s, the U.S.government, driven by budgetary constraints,embraced the policy of return. The expirationof the Bracero program, a twenty-two-yearagreement that brought millions of Mexicansto the United States as temporary agriculturalworkers, and the cap placed on WesternHemisphere immigration under the 1965 Hart-Celler Act resulted in an increase in thenumber of Mexican immigrants considered tobe illegal. The number of deportable immi-grants apprehended far exceeded the numberof spaces available in federal and localdetention facilities. As Immigration andNaturalization Service commissionerRaymond F. Farrell wrote in the 1968 AnnualReport, “in order to reduce costs, policy and procedural changes were made to utilizeinformal deportations [returns] in lieu of formal deportations [removals] in the risingnumber of Mexican cases.” The INS came torely on returns out of necessity; to the Service,the means was less important than the ends.For some immigrants facing deportation,return may seem the better of two unattractiveoptions. First, it means that they won’t have tospend as much, if any, time in detentionbecause there will be no deportation hearing.Second, there are fewer restrictions placed onreimmigrating and less severe consequencesfor those apprehended again. However, thereare drawbacks as well: by accepting voluntarydeparture, immigrants give up the right tofight their deportation order in court, and theyalso have to pay for their own transportation.Additionally, it is important to remember thatafter the shift in policy, federal officialsundoubtedly pressured immigrants intoaccepting returns.Because both removals and returns requireindividuals to leave the United States, depor-tation should be defined as the sum of thetwo. Lending further support to this is the factthat the federal government classifies the onemillion-plus Mexicans deported during“Operation Wetback” in 1954 as returns,although their departure was hardlyvoluntary. When understood as the totalnumber of removals and returns, the numberof deportations since 1892 exceeds fifty-twomillion, representing a tenfold increasecompared to the number of removals alone,and reflecting the fact that the deportationregime has overwhelmingly targetedMexicans. Moreover, under this revised defi-nition, more than 96 percent of all deporta-tions since 1892 have taken place since 1950,and more than half have taken place since1990. That is worth repeating: more than half of all deportations from the United Statessince 1892 have taken place during the lasttwenty years. These numbers reflect a funda-mental shift in U.S. immigration policy and practice.  A New Harshness As sociologist Jacqueline Hagan and hercolleagues have described, in 1996 twocongressional acts, the Illegal ImmigrationReform and Immigrant Responsibility Act(IIRIRA) and the Anti-Terrorism and EffectiveDeath Penalty Act (AEDPA), increased bordersecurity and essentially eliminated judicialreview in most deportation cases. Instead of   66DISSENT  SPRING 2011 DEPORTED IMMIGRANTS review by an immigration judge, who couldconsider whether deportation would present ahardship for the deportee’s family, the newlaws gave low-level INS officials the ability to perform “expedited removals.”In addition to minimizing judicial review,IIRIRA expanded the definition of an “aggra-vated felony,” the grounds for deportation, toinclude more than two dozen offenses, someof them minor. The expansion was retroactive,meaning that someone who may havecommitted a crime or pleaded guilty to a crimethat was not a deportable offense at the timecould now be sought out for removal. InOctober 2001, in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Patriot Act gavefederal immigration enforcement officialsfurther leeway in detaining and deporting anyimmigrants  perceived  to be “engaged in any …activity that endangers the national security of the United States.”These three acts and a ballooningINS/Homeland Security budget resulted in asignificant increase in the number of admis-sions to detention facilities and in the averagenumber of days spent in detention. They also produced a marked shift in how people aredeported. After thirty years of relying primarily on returns, immigration officialshave increasingly turned to removals.Between 1950 and 1995, the average numberof yearly removals was just under 21,000. In1996, the number of removals increased to69,680; by 2003 it more than tripled,exceeding 211,000; and since 2007 the numberof yearly removals has exceeded 300,000,reflecting the shift in law and the heightenedemphasis in recent years on the criminal-ization and detention of immigrants.Who is being targeted for detention anddeportation? In response to a question aboutenforcement priorities, John Morton, Directorof ICE, recently stated, “In a world of limitedresources, our time is better spent on someonewho is here unlawfully and is committingcrimes in the neighborhood … as opposed tosomeone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of theirlife here.” Despite such assurances, recenttrends—such as the defeat in the Senate of theDREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship to undocumented immi-grants who came to the United States beforethe age of sixteen, graduated from high school,lived in the country continuously for aminimum of five years prior to the bill’senactment, and completed at least two years of military service or higher education at a four-year institution; the proposal byRepresentative Steve King (R-IA) to deporttax-paying undocumented immigrants byforcing the IRS to share information with theDepartment of Homeland Security; and theexpansion of the Secure Communities program, a partnership between the federalgovernment and states and local communitiesthat requires law enforcement officials to runthe fingerprints of anyone arrested through afederal immigration database—indicate thatICE is likely to focus its efforts on removingimmigrants at large, rather than dangerouscriminals alone.  Since its inception in October 2008, more thaneight hundred and fifty counties in thirty-fourstates, including every county in Arizona,Delaware, Florida, Texas, Virginia, and WestVirginia, have signed up for SecureCommunities. The Obama administration’s plan is to implement the program in everycounty across the nation by 2013, with nooption for local communities to opt out. Somecounties and cities, including San Franciscoand Washington, D.C., have objected to theimplementation of Secure Communities, pointing to the detrimental effects the programwould have—or is already having—on police-community relations. Indeed, the implemen-tation of Secure Communities has a high cost:an increase in the deportation of noncriminals,the further marginalization of a populationthat is already among the least likely to reportcrimes (especially cases of domestic violence)or trust the police, and the enlistment of locallaw enforcement officials as poorly trainedimmigration officers, which detracts from theirability to focus on more pressing crime.As of June 2010, 79 percent of peopleflagged by Secure Communities had no recordor just a minor offense, which could be assmall as a traffic violation. In MaricopaCounty, Arizona, home of the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio and ground zero of recent national  SPRING 2011 DISSENT67 DEPORTED IMMIGRANTS immigration debates, 54 percent of thoseflagged had no record at all. In Travis County,Texas, the percentage was even higher—82 percent had no criminal record. These discrep-ancies reveal the ability of local lawenforcement officials—each with his or herown beliefs, understanding of immigrationlaws, and political constituencies—to takefederal immigration policy into their ownhands. This begins to explain the divergencebetween the Obama administration’s stated policy of deporting dangerous criminals andthe actual implementation of that policy at thelocal level. There are other   possible explanations of whynoncriminals are being deported. First is ICE’sneed to justify its budget and place in thefederal immigration bureaucracy by toutingyearly “achievements” and trying to meet its2010 goal (leaked in an internal memo) of fourhundred thousand removals. Additionalfactors include political pressure to crackdown on immigration given the recentrecession and high levels of unemployment;the explosion of private prisons and “thebusiness of deportation”; and, according to aDecember 2010 Washington Post  article, theObama administration’s (unsuccessful)attempt to gain bipartisan support for compre-hensive immigration reform by increasingdeportations and enforcement efforts.Sadly, those most affected by the Obamaadministration’s escalation of deportations arenot dangerous criminals but people likeValente and Manuel Valenzuela, who defi-nitely do not pose a threat to their commu-nities or to national security. Consider the caseof nineteen-year-old construction worker and U.S. citizen Luis Alberto Delgado, wrongfullydeported by U.S. Border Patrol agents in June2010 after a routine traffic stop, despite thefact that he presented them with his stateidentification card, Social Security card, and acopy of his birth certificate from a Houstonhospital. Delgado, who lived for most of hischildhood in Mexico and is not a nativeEnglish speaker, spent eighty-five days inexile until U.S. officials finally allowed him tore-enter the country in September, uponwhich he discovered that he had lost hisconstruction job.Or consider the case of Mark Farrales, athirty-one-year-old Harvard graduate and University of California-San Diego doctoralstudent. Farrales’s parents fled the Philippinesafter an assassination attempt on his father (alawyer and politician who spoke out againstgovernment corruption) and brought him tothe United States on a travel visa when he wasten. His father’s death in 2006 ended thefamily’s chance of gaining legal asylum andmade Farrales deportable. In November 2010,ICE agents arrested Farrales at his home; hespent a month in detention before beingreleased and granted a one-year reprieve fromdeportation, thanks in part to a Los AngelesTimes article and the subsequent support of alocal congressman. It is now up to the Boardof Immigration Appeals to decide whetherFarrales will be deported.The Valenzuela brothers, Delgado, andFarrales are not anomalies. Rather, they makeit clear that the Obama administration is notonly deporting “dangerous” criminals but, likethe administrations before it, continuing totarget individuals who can best be describedas productive, upstanding members of society,some of them legal permanent residents orcitizens.  What Kind of Nation? Although at first it might seem like a minorquibble, the way that deportation is definedsignificantly affects our understanding of immigration policy and practice because itcalls into question the reputation of the UnitedStates as a nation that has welcomed immi-grants throughout its history. The statisticsreinforce this point: since 1950, 49,570,348have been removed or returned, while36,280,427 have obtained permanent residentstatus. The total number of deportations isstriking, regardless of the fact that it includessome people who may have been deportedmultiple times. With thirteen million more people deported over the last sixty years thanhave been granted permanent residency, postwar America can more accurately bedescribed as a nation that deports immigrantsthan as one that welcomes them.A more inclusive definition not only  68DISSENT  SPRING 2011 DEPORTED IMMIGRANTS  provides a more accurate record of total depor-tations, but also reveals that far from being arecent phenomenon, deportation has playedan important role in U.S. immigration policyfor sixty years. In turn, this realization calls fora critical reassessment of how immigration policy and the immigrant experience areunderstood in U.S. history and memory.The outcomes of Valente and ManuelValenzuela’s cases are unclear. In his July 1,2010, address on immigration reform, Obamanoted that “immigrants have always helped tobuild and defend this country—and that beingan American is not a matter of blood or birth.It’s a matter of faith. It’s a matter of fidelity tothe shared values that we all hold so dear.That’s what makes us unique. That’s whatmakes us strong. Anybody can help us writethe next great chapter in our history.” Theexpansion of Secure Communities and thecontinued deportation of people who pose nothreat to local or national security indicate thatthe Valenzuelas and millions of others likethem may not be around to do that.  Adam Goodman is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He would like tothank Michael B. Katz and Seulki Choi Lee for their insightfulcomments on earlier drafts of this article. Economics   for the   Real World   Dollars & Sense magazine explains real Ͳ lifeeconomic issues in plain language, diggingbeneath the conventional wisdom and offeringinnovative ideas for fundamental change. Recent highlights: x Banking fraud x Employers on strike x Mortgage discrimination   x Green jobs x A new WPA? x Bubbles and bailoutsIn addition to the magazine, Dollars & Sense  publishes textbooks and anthologies that makecritical economic analysis accessible to a newgeneration of students.   Subscribe t   o the magazine and browse the book c   at   alog at or c   all (617) 447-2177 to request a s   ample issue.
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