The Obama administration is reportedly considering an executive action that could protect illegal immigrants convicted of serious vehicle-related offenses, including drunk driving, from deportation, to which they’d normally be subject under immigration law.
The most sweeping piece of executive action President Obama has considered regarding immigration policy would offer effectively legal status and work authorization to some millions of illegal immigrants, but there are other executive actions the administration has considered instead of or in addition to that measure. One of those possibilities, described in a report by the Migration Policy Institute, would be shielding apprehended illegal-immigrant criminals from deportation if they’ve been “convicted exclusively of traffic crimes.”
But, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, depending on how “traffic crimes” is defined, that could protect illegal immigrants convicted of such crimes as drunk or drugged driving and carjacking.
Illegal immigrants convicted of a criminal offense are subject to deportation, and if they’re later apprehended by federal immigration authorities, they are again subject to prioritized deportation. If illegal immigrants with just traffic-related convictions, as CIS defines them, were no longer subject to those policies, more than 250,000 fewer illegal immigrants would have been deported from 2004 to 2013. More than 140,000 of them were found guilty of driving under the influence, the CIS report says.
More than half of all illegal immigrants who were deported on account of traffic offenses during the same time frame had been previously deported, according to CIS.
And mere traffic crimes such as drunk driving can involve more serious offenses, such as vehicular homicide, even if the immigrant isn’t convicted of the more serious crime. “We also know anecdotally from several cases that a number of those aliens whose most serious offense is listed as ‘driving under the influence’ in fact injured or killed pedestrians or other drivers, but were for a variety of reasons not charged by police or prosecutors with the more serious offenses,” the CIS report says. “In some egregious instances, the most serious charge levied was driving without a license, even when death or permanent maiming ensued.”