Case History: Sloppy Government Work Stalls Criminal's Deportation

By David North on February 17, 2012

Sloppy work by both an ICE attorney and an immigration judge (IJ) has led to the delay, and perhaps ultimately the reversal, of the well-deserved deportation of a native of El Salvador who has a substantial criminal record.

This was revealed, if not in the terms I used above, by a recent decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals.

J.R. Velasquez, now a permanent resident alien, has a long rap sheet, but the two crucial entries, together adequate grounds for deportation, were a 2008 conviction in Prince William County, Va., for receiving stolen goods, and a 2009 conviction in the same place for sexual battery.

Velasquez, when he got into the immigration court, did not deny either crime, nor did he deny the two convictions, but his lawyer contended that the government documentation of the 2009 conviction was not authenticated in the proper manner. The 2009 court records were neither stamped by a Virginia court clerk, nor was there an accompanying note from a federal official saying that the government had received the documents.

The immigration judge (who is not named) overlooked this matter and ruled that Velasquez must leave the country. The latter's alert attorney, Ana T. Jacobs of Washington, then appealed and convinced the BIA that her client should not be deported, because of the flaws in the paperwork. The BIA then sent the whole case back to the IJ to figure out what should happen next.

Meanwhile, and these matters do not bear on the outcome, there are indications in the BIA decision that Velasquez is not a model citizen. There were three felony warrants issued by a magistrate in 2009, and a "crime of domestic violence"; IJ decided that none of those actions were pertinent to the deportation case.

What bothers me about the BIA decision was that it was all so preventable. The court clerk in Prince William County could have stamped the documents; someone in ICE could have noticed the lack of a stamp and solved it by writing a note indicating that the document was secured in an appropriate manner; the ICE lawyer before the IJ could have noticed this failing, and called for a properly-authenticated document, even in that meant a postponement; and the IJ should know what is an authenticated document and what is not.

As a result, Velasquez's deportation is up in the air, and by the time it gets back to the immigration judge, the administration's prosecutorial discretion policy (which seems to be that we only deport confessed alien ax murderers) may come into play, and the administration may decide that Velasquez's rap sheet does not show a sufficient amount of violence to warrant a trip back to El Salvador.

It is all very troublesome.