US deportation of immigrants convicted of crimes ‘cruel’ and ‘senseless’: HRW
US deportation of immigrants convicted of crimes ‘cruel’ and ‘senseless’: HRW

[JURIST] The US policy of deporting legal immigrants convicted of crimes has separated an estimated 1.6 million children and adults [press release] and resulted in the permanent exile of permanent residents for even non-violent misdemeanor offenses, according to a report [PDF text] released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website]. HRW US Program senior research Alison Parker, the author of the report, called the laws "cruel in their rigidity" and "senseless."

According to the report:

Refugees have also been sent to places where they fear persecution, even though the crimes they have committed are not sufficiently serious to warrant stripping them of refugee protection.

Not only have deportation laws become more punitive – increasing the types of crimes that can permanently sever an immigrant's ties to the United States – but there are fewer ways for immigrants to appeal for leniency. Hearings that used to happen in which a judge would consider immigrants' ties to the United States, most especially their family relationships, were stopped in 1996 for those convicted of a long list of crimes. Therefore, family relationships or other ties to the United States receive no consideration and cannot influence a judge's deportation decision.

HRW says that while "deportation is a necessary part of every country's enforcement of its immigration laws," the exercise of deportation powers should be "governed by fair laws tailored to protect legitimate national interests." The report urged modifying immigration laws to take into account an immigrant's family ties, military service, connections to the United States, and the best interest of his or her children. AFP has more.