How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report cites cases of minor offenses, many traffic-related, leading to deportation

Photo by kbrookes/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Critics of the Obama administration's immigration policies have pointed to a growing number of people being deported after being stopped for traffic infractions, some serious, some less so.

According to a recent Associated Press analysis, the U.S. deported nearly 393,000 people in fiscal year 2010, which ended last Sept. 30. Half were considered criminals, and of these, 27,635 were arrested for DUI. But another 13,028 were deported after being arrested on less serious traffic charges, nearly three times the number of traffic offenders deported in FY 2008.

A report out today from the American Immigration Lawyers Association aims to make some of these cases leading to deportation more clear. The report cites 127 case examples that "are consistent with DHS's own data showing deportation of tens of thousands of individuals who have been picked up for minor infractions and who pose no threat to our communities."

Among them are 66 cases involving people placed in removal proceedings after being arrested or cited for minor traffic violations. One of the anecdotal examples cited:

In September 2009, Ms. A had just dropped her daughter off at school in California when she was pulled over for making a right turn on a red light. When the police officer saw Ms. A, he told her, "I know you are illegal," and questioned her about her immigration status.

Although she did not admit to being out of status, the police officer contacted ICE and detained her at the roadside until an ICE officer could pick her up. She was issued a Notice to Appear (NTA) and released so that she could pick up her daughter, who is a U.S. citizen with learning disabilities, from school. Ms. A, who is from Mexico, was not charged or convicted of any crime and has no criminal history.


AILA, which advocates for immigrant-friendly polices, makes several recommendations, including that Homeland Security establish screening mechanisms "to ensure that enforcement priorities are followed and that finite resources are focused on individuals who pose a threat to our communities or our country." The entire report can be downloaded here.

KPCC's OnCentral hyperlocal site recently reported on the deportation of street vendors in South Los Angeles, cited for what is also a minor offense under city ordinance.

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