This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One might logically presume that lawful permanent residency in the United States is precisely what it purports to be. Permanent. However, logic and consistency rarely seem to make it to the final draft of any of our nation's immigration laws.
Every year the U.S. deports thousands of our lawful permanent residents ("green card holders") based on criminal convictions ranging from misdemeanor theft to murder. That's right, both misdemeanor theft and murder may be considered "aggravated felonies" for immigration purposes, carrying identical, permanent immigration consequences. Some may argue such vastly different crimes should carry equally different consequences. I tend to believe that murder and misdemeanor theft should carry the same consequences; that is, no consequences.
Legal immigrants may have been born on the "wrong side" of the border, but they have jumped through our hoops, paid our filing fees, and done everything we required to earn some of the rights most of us were born into. These are the immigrants who came here "the right way," those who even the staunchest conservatives claim to support. Good or bad, right or wrong, black, white or brown, these are our people now. It is an absolute abomination that our Congress is using our immigration courts as an extension of our criminal justice system to further punish our people.
According to a 2010 report by the American Immigration Council, 68 percent of all lawful permanent residents deported from the U.S. are deported for minor, non-violent crimes. We spend thousands of dollars to deport a single, non-violent lawful permanent resident that very well may have been supporting a U.S. citizen spouse and/or children who will be left behind.
The cost of deportation is negligible compared to the ongoing costs of compensating through social programs for the loss of a family's primary provider. Not exactly the soundest economic policy. Nor is it the wisest social policy, creating single parent homes by force.
To be sure, a portion of deported lawful permanent residents are violent criminals who we may for the sake of convenience collectively label as "bad people." However, "bad people" are not going to stop doing "bad things" simply because they have been deported. Time has disproved the flawed theory that it is "not our problem" what deportees do, or whom they hurt, once they leave U.S. soil.
Following an increase in deportations of violent criminals under the Clinton administration, Latin American countries have become overrun by the "bad people" we thought we had just thrown away. The damage caused by this growing group under ineffective and oftentimes corrupt governments is astounding. The murder capital of the world is not Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan; it is Honduras. The government of El Salvador in 2012 resorted to playing a role in a highly controversial "truce" with the prominent gang leaders, which objective observers described as a farce. Our own U.S. Department of State has issued current travel warnings for approximately 20 percent of all Latin American countries.
Unsurprisingly, the increased instability of Central America coincides with the increased number of single mothers and unaccompanied minors fleeing their native countries for the United States. The current humanitarian crisis at our southern border is, without question, largely one of our own creation.
The problems with our country's immigration laws are so vast and complex that it is often difficult to know where to begin (which may explain, in part, why our Congress does not seem to want to begin at all). I have a simple solution to get things started. Let's stop deporting our legal immigrants.
Skyler Anderson is founding partner of Immigrant Defenders Law Group, Taylorsville.