DHS Gives Some Criminals Permanent Protected Status

By Jessica Vaughan, November 14, 2012

In one of the most absurd examples of immigration enforcement malpractice yet, this week ICE is planning to take a pass on removing a criminal alien convicted of vehicular manslaughter. On Friday, November 16, exactly two years after Roberto Galo struck and killed motorcyclist Drew Rosenberg while making an illegal left turn in a car he was unlicensed and uninsured to drive, Galo is scheduled to be released from a California jail. Under the law, Galo is removable — but under an Obama administration policy implemented last year, officials were told to reclassify one of his offenses to allow him to stay in the United States.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders tells much of the story here and here. "Fox & Friends" also covered the story, featuring an interview with Drew's father, Don Rosenberg. Mr. Rosenberg chronicles the nauseating indifference and incompetence of San Francisco authorities and his own research on unlicensed drivers on this website. Long-time followers of sanctuary policies won't be surprised at the role of San Francisco District Attorney and former police chief George Gascon, whose long and consistent record of contempt for immigration law enforcement makes him a prime candidate for a leadership role at ICE in this administration.

Yes, San Francisco's policies are a real problem. But federal immigration authorities have the ability to remove Galo and spare future potential victims in spite of the local policies.

Galo is a citizen of Honduras who was living in the United States illegally before being granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) that was decreed after a hurricane struck his country in 1998. Aliens who are granted TPS are allowed to work and to get driver's licenses. However, Galo failed the California driving test three times, so he drove without a license. Several months before the accident that killed Drew Rosenberg, Galo was cited for driving the wrong way down a one-way street and unlicensed and uninsured driving. City prosecutors let him plead down to a fine for the reckless driving, dropped the other charges, and illegally released his impounded car to a friend. After killing Drew Rosenberg in that same car, Galo was let off of all charges except for two misdemeanors, vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license.

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act written by Congress, those aliens convicted of two misdemeanors are not eligible for TPS. Prior to last year, ICE agents could have taken custody of Galo upon completion of his jail sentence and informed USCIS (the TPS-granting agency) of his misdemeanor convictions. USCIS could then withdraw Galo’s TPS and he could be deported.

But last year, at the request of immigration lawyers in New York and Florida who handle many TPS applications, especially on behalf of Haitians, DHS issued a memo directing USCIS officers not to deny or withdraw TPS for aliens convicted of misdemeanors if they are traffic offenses or other crimes that this administration considers to be minor. These misdemeanors are to be reclassified as "infractions" and the cases are to undergo special review. According to a precursor memo dealing with New York, withdrawing TPS on the basis of such misdemeanors would be "in tension with the humanitarian purpose of the TPS program".

If USCIS reclassifies Galo's misdemeanor conviction for driving without a license as a minor traffic infraction, then he gets to stay.

USCIS offices are supposed to maintain a list of those cases in which misdemeanors are reclassified as infractions, and I would encourage anyone interested in how many aliens have benefited from this re-write of the law, and what offenses they have been excused of, to submit a Freedom of Information request to your local USCIS office. Instructions are here.

In her blog, Debra Saunders said it well:

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It's one thing to argue that the city [or the feds] should try to protect otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants. I do not agree. Violating immigration law should have consequences. But in the name of defending otherwise law-abiding immigrants, San Francisco [and DHS] shields law-breaking illegal immigrants. And the consequences have been fatal.

The results of this game of public safety Russian roulette have been further quantified in a Congressional Research Service report. Using records that were subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee, the report found that criminal aliens who were discovered through ICE's Secure Communities program but released under "prosecutorial discretion" guidelines went on to commit 58,000 new crimes over a two and one-half year period.

Beware any promises from DHS that its policies keep criminals and other dangerous individuals from obtaining legal status under the extensive array of benefits and amnesty programs. Clearly their definition of "criminal" or "dangerous" leaves a lot of room for error.