GREENSBORO, NC – In the last month, we’ve heard the cases of two immigrants being deported after illegally living in the United States for decades.
In the case of Nestor Marchi, he will be deported to his native country of Brazil, after living in America more than 20 years. Marchi was ordered deported in 2006, after over-staying his visa and being caught in a raid at work.
On May 31st, Juana Luz Tobar Ortega was supposed to leave the country, however she took sanctuary in a Triad church. Ortega was in the process of gaining asylum, but it was denied. During an appeal, she left the country for Guatemala, to care for her gravely ill daughter. After coming back into the U.S., she lost her appeal and was ordered deported in 2009.
The first question might be obvious. If they were ordered deported years ago, why are they just now being told to leave the country? Both Marchi and Ortega stayed in the country thanks to an order of supervision from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They checked in every year to receive another stay in the country. But recently, ICE refused to extend their orders any further, meaning their deportation was final.
What’s the difference between an arrest and deportation?
Arrests and deportations aren’t the same. An ICE arrest simply starts the process of being deported. Not all deportation proceedings start with an arrest and not all arrests end with deportation. This process of deporting an individual could take months or years.
A judge could allow someone to stay, order them to be deported or order a voluntary departure. A voluntary departure is an order allowing someone to leave within a certain amount of time and pay for it on their own. A voluntary departure does not count as an official deportation.
Once someone is ordered deported, ICE could take them into custody until they are deported, allow them to stay under an order of supervision or allow them to self-deport by departing the United States on their own.
Are Arrests and Deportations Up?
Yes and no.
Immigration arrests are up under President Donald Trump’s administration, compared to former President Barack Obama.
From January 22nd to April 29th of 2017, the arrests of undocumented immigrants are up 38%; 41,318 people compared to 30,028 people during the same period in 2016.
However, the number of deportations is down under President Trump. ICE removed 56,000 people from January to April of 2017. 62,062 people were removed during the same period under the Obama administration.
The last two years of the Obama administration saw lower numbers of deportations. However, he was dubbed the “Deporter-In Chief" by pro-immigrant advocacy groups, after over 80,000 people were removed in the same period in 2014.
Deportations are down, according to ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan, because of a backlog in immigration courts, the time-consuming nature of deportations and a drop in people caught crossing the southwest border.
Criminals Versus Non-Criminals
In 2010, the Obama administration ordered immigration officials to focus on those who committed violent crimes. Four years later, gang members, convicted felons and those suspected of terrorism were listed as priorities for deportation, as well as those caught trying to enter the country.
Trump’s administration lists criminals as a priority, but the rest of his executive order includes expansive language. Under Obama, if an ICE officer entered a home looking for an undocumented immigrant with a violent record, they would not arrest others in the home.
Department of Homeland Security John Kelly's order now allows ICE agents to round up anyone they encounter and arrest them if they're in the country illegally, which has driven up the number of non-criminals arrested.
In a press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said “the shackles have come off” ICE agents. Kelly said “ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
According to Bryan Cox, Southern Region Communications Director for ICE, “The removal of non-criminal aliens is nothing new. Over the last five fiscal years (FY 2012 to 2016), about 41 to 45 percent of ICE’s total removals had no prior criminal convictions.”
Remembering the difference between arrests and deportations, of the 54,000 people deported under President Trump, 23,000 were non-criminals.
Of the 41,000 who were arrested under Trump’s administration, 10,845 were non-criminals, meaning the immigration violation was the only mark on their record. Of all the people arrested by ICE in 2017, 75% had a criminal record.
Immigration attorney Jeremy McKinney told News 2, “Instead of focusing on felons, they’re focusing on grandmothers like Juana and hard-working people like Nestor.”
McKinney currently represents Marchi and formerly represented Ortega.