For over a decade, deportation defense and immigration appeals attorneys have criticized the impact of minor criminal offenses on lawful permanent resident (LPR) immigrants and their families.  We’ve been lone wolves.

But last week, in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, the Supreme Court provided hope the issue will finally receive constitutional scrutiny.

Now, a recently released study, “In The Child’s Best Interests? The Consequences Of Losing a Lawful Immigrant Parent”, adds numerical insight about the need for judicial reform of our deportation laws.

The study covers LPR parental deportation between 1997 and 2007.  The findings include:

Lawful Permanent Residents

  • 87,884 LPRs were deported during the ten year period
  • 68% of these LPRs were deported for minor, non-violent crimes
  • The deported LPRs had lived in the U.S. an average of ten years, long enough to form families

Children of Lawful Permanent Residents

  • 53% of the deported LPRs had at least one child living with them
  • Deported LPRs had a total of 103,000 children
  • 88,000 children of deported LPRs were U.S. citizens
  • 44,000 children of deported LPRs were under the age of 5

Family Members of Lawful Permanent Residents

In addition, the study noted 217,000 other immediate family members (including U.S. husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters) were affected by the deportation of LPRs between 1997-2007.

Two Needed Reforms

As I discussed in “Immigration Fairness: The Need to Restore Judicial Discretion in Deportation Cases”, there are two components to repair in these types of deportation cases.

First, differentiate minor and major convictions.  Several offenses deemed minor under state law are transformed into aggravated felonies under immigration law.  Once a conviction is classified as an aggravated felony, a lawful permanent resident is subject to automatic removal from the United States.

Second, restore judicial discretion.  Immigration judges lack the discretion to distinguish minor from major crimes.  Until this ability is restored, they lack the authority to intervene and exercise reason in separating which immigrants deserve a second chance at remaining lawfully here.

While the battle for reform is far from over, it’s nice to know these issues have finally reached the attention of a broader audience.