New York Post, October 14, 2007
America's immigration system is obviously broken, but to get a sense for just how dysfunctional it really is, scan the pages of Ames Holbrook's “The Deporter." This first-person account of the four years Holbrook spent working to deport criminal aliens from the United States is as hair-raising as it is distressing.
Take Holbrook's description of his encounter with an illegal alien named “Rodolfo," a career criminal “with eight felony convictions, burglary to battery, and a sex assault thrown in." Holbrook walked him out of jail but instead of throwing him out of the country, he had to release him free and clear. Why? Because he falsely claimed he was from Cuba.
There is a short list of countries - in Holbrook's terminology the “Big Four" - that do not take back their criminal citizens: Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. If the country will not issue travel documents for its citizens to return home, there is nothing deportation officers can do to get these criminals out of the United States. Holbrook explains that many criminals know the system well enough to know how not to get deported. Rodolfo, who was most likely a Mexican, knew that if he admitted his true nationality he'd be deported back home. So he claimed to be Cuban and without any document to prove otherwise (which is why illegals are offically known as undocumented aliens), he couldn't be deported.
What makes things even worse is that because of a 2001 Supreme Court decision, the immigration authorities can no longer indefinitely detain criminal aliens from countries that will not take them back. So when a criminal alien is finished serving his jail term, deportation officers like Holbrook are forced to release them back among the rest of us. In another case, Holbrook had to inform a Vietnamese woman called Jacqueline that the violent felon who attacked her was being released from custody. Since his native country, Laos, wouldn't take him back, and the courts ruled he couldn't be held indefinitely, he had to be let go. Holbrook says he is haunted by her cries of anguish.
As a former immigration agent, I can sympathize with Holbrook's predicament. But some of his descriptions of breaking rules and resorting to deceitful tactics just to get criminal aliens deported - like lying about the crimes for which the alien was convicted so that the foreign country will be forced to accept their citizen - are worrisome to say the least.
This is a story for anyone who is concerned about how the failure to secure this country's borders imperils our safety and our nation's security. But it's only one story. Frighteningly, each of the other components of the immigration system is just as dysfunctional as the deportation branch described here.
Michael W. Cutler is a former senior special agent of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.