The Department of Homeland Security argues it should not deport some deportable aliens on the grounds that it wants to use all its resources to remove criminal aliens.
Sometimes the deportations of criminals take a long, long time, as we can see by examining the most recent precedent decision from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), issued last week.
The alien involved, Juan Ramon Martinez, a native of Honduras, was convicted of a serious crime in a California court, and this is the timeline of his case:
- 1991 (April) - Admission as an immigrant
- 1991 (April) to 1994 (May) - During this time he committed an "assault with intent to commit a felony"
- 1994 (May) - Convicted in state court of above crime
- 1994 (May to present) - Subject to deportation because of conviction
- 1994 (May) to 2009 (October) - At some point in these 15 years ICE moved to deport him
- 2009 (October) - Immigration Judge ordered his removal; alien appealed to BIA
- 2011 (July) - BIA agrees with IJ, denies appeal
- 2011 (July) to some later date- Probable appeals of BIA decision to the federal courts
Thus we have a 17-year period from the conviction to an interim decision from the BIA that may, in turn, lead to appeals to federal courts for months or, more likely, years in the future. One can assume that during about 90 percent of this time period the convict was living freely in the States, after serving a relatively short prison sentence.
If the ICE detainee locator was working today, as it usually does, Ramon Martinez is not currently being held in a detention center.
The BIA's decision was not designed to point a searchlight on the innumerable delays in this case – it was supposed to clarify a point of immigration law, and it did: "A violation of section 220 of the California Penal Code is categorically a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. §§ 16(a) and (b) (2006)." Given this ruling, Ramon Martinez was determined to be deportable.
Unfortunately the four-page decision was totally silent on what ICE and Ramon Martinez were doing between the conviction in 1994 and the IJ's ruling in 2009, fifteen years later.
Sadly, this case is not unique; long delays between the law-breaking and the deportation are all too common. If the reader wants to examine this proposition in detail, go to the BIA precedent decisions here.