The Corner

Let ’Em Loose Bruce, or Line-Flushing in Immigration Court

The latest installment in the Obama administration’s gutting of immigration enforcement was reported today in the Houston Chronicle. As reporter Susan Carroll wrote:

The Department of Homeland Security is systematically reviewing thousands of pending immigration cases and moving to dismiss those filed against suspected illegal immigrants who have no serious criminal records, according to several sources familiar with the efforts.

Culling the immigration court system dockets of noncriminals started in earnest in Houston about a month ago and has stunned local immigration attorneys, who have reported coming to court anticipating clients’ deportations only to learn that the government was dismissing their cases.

Mind you, this isn’t a question of ICE agents deciding to focus on, say, airport workers instead of dishwashers; that kind of prioritization happens all the time and is unavoidable in the real world. These are people who’ve already been arrested, charged, and in deportation proceedings simply being let go because the backlog is too large. It’s like the phenomenon of “line-flushing” at border crossings, where if the line of foreigners trying to enter the country gets too long, inspectors are sometimes instructed to just let everyone in and start checking again later, so as not to interfere with border commerce.

More from the article:

Gonzalez said DHS attorneys are conducting the reviews on a case-by-case basis. However, he said they are following general guidelines that allow for the dismissal of cases for defendants who have been in the country for two or more years and have no felony convictions.

In some instances, defendants can have one misdemeanor conviction, but it cannot involve a DWI, family violence or sexual crime, Gonzalez said.

Well, they’re not letting convicted sex criminals loose, that’s nice. And the immigration lawyers are pleased as punch, which should be a clue as to how damaging this initiative is:

Gonzalez said he went into immigration court downtown on Monday and was given a court date in October 2011 for one client. But, he said, the government’s attorney requested the dismissal of that case and those of two more of his clients, and the cases were dispatched by the judge.

The court “was terminating all of the cases that came up,” Gonzalez said. “It was absolutely fantastic.”

“We’re all calling each other saying, ‘Can you believe this?’ ” said John Nechman, another Houston immigration attorney, who had two cases dismissed.

Attorney Elizabeth Mendoza Macias, who has practiced in Houston for 17 years, said she had cases for several clients dismissed during the past month and eventually called DHS to find out what was going on. She said she was told by a DHS trial attorney that 2,500 cases were under review in Houston.

“I had five (dismissed) in one week, and two more that I just received,” Mendoza said. “And I am expecting many more, many more, in the next month.”

Although this strategy wasn’t included in the notorious administrative amnesty memo, it should have been. The message it sends to immigration agents: Don’t bother doing your jobs. The message to illegal aliens: Please, please don’t go home just because Congress hasn’t passed an amnesty yet!

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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