Under federal law, noncitizen criminals convicted of aggravated felonies are deported from the United States. Republicans and Democrats should both agree with this commonsense rule of immigration law. But some judges, politicians, and prosecutors are undermining it. They would rather criminal convicts stay in your neighborhood than return to their countries of origin.
Judges serve convicted criminals by changing their criminal records to help them avoid deportation. For example, in Matter of Thomas and Thompson, a noncitizen committed domestic violence battery and was sentenced to 12 months confinement, the minimum sentence required for a violent crime to qualify as an “aggravated felony” causing deportation under federal law. So, when the federal government began deportation proceedings, the noncitizen asked a judge to reduce his criminal sentence on paper even though the sentence had already been served.
Congress does not allow this trick under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Regardless, the Board of Immigration Appeals accommodated the judge and declined to deport the criminal. Now, Attorney General William Barr is reviewing the decision in that case.
Politicians, meanwhile, are declaring cities and states to be “sanctuaries” from immigration law. Sanctuary politicians prohibit law-enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. They also spend taxpayers’ money on immigration lawyers to represent deportable aliens free-of-charge. And they even instruct prosecutors to treat noncitizen violent criminals better than they treat U.S. citizens.
Seattle, for example, is a sanctuary city that refuses to transfer custody of illegal-alien criminals to federal authorities. Instead, Seattle releases such criminals back on the street. So, over a two-year period, Seattle released nearly 290 illegal aliens who were charged with felonies like homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, drug crimes, burglary, and fraud.
Philadelphia, likewise, is a sanctuary city that prevents federal immigration officers from interviewing prison inmates, conceals information from the federal government about arrestees’ immigration status, and even refuses to notify federal authorities whenever Philadelphia knowingly releases deportable criminals from prison.
Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Larry Krasner, even ensures that noncitizen criminals are less likely to be jailed in the first place. Krasner hires a taxpayer-funded lawyer to offer sweetheart deals to noncitizen criminals to help them avoid deportation. So far, more than 120 criminals have gotten lenient sentences just because they are noncitizens. These criminals include violent, weapon-equipped batterers, thieves, drug dealers, sex offenders, and domestic abusers.
In one case, a man committed felony assault with a beer bottle, hospitalizing his victim with emergency eye surgery, yet Krasner’s office still offered the criminal a sweetheart deal to prevent his deportation. But the hospitalized victim was deported, instead, because he was an illegal alien—even though he applied for a special crime-victims’ visa program.
Philadelphia also provides taxpayer-funded immigration lawyers free-of-charge to deportable aliens solely to prevent their legally-required removal from the United States. Thus, Philadelphia’s taxpayers are paying one lawyer to make prosecutors go easy on noncitizen criminals, then paying another lawyer to keep such criminals in the city if the federal government ever tries to deport them. But good luck to any taxpaying U.S. citizen who needs a lawyer in family court, small-claims court, tax court, traffic court, or any other civil proceeding.
Statewide politicians in both parties are also complicit. Legislators and governors invent “364-day laws” to reduce criminal sentences by one day below the 365-day minimum for deportation under federal law.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) passed a bill reducing the maximum possible sentence for Utah’s Class A misdemeanors by a single day—from 365 to 364 days—even for violent crimes like child abuse and assault, or theft, voter fraud, and negligent homicide. Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed a similar bill reducing sentences by 1 day for crimes like child abuse, domestic violence, and theft—even though Colorado’s legislature rejected this in 2018 and 2017.
New York politicians snuck a 364-day provision into the state’s budget law. Anyone previously sentenced to one year in jail on certain misdemeanor charges—again including both violent crimes and theft crimes—will have his record retroactively changed to 364 days. At least four other states have also adopted such 364-day laws, including Washington, Nevada, California, and Oregon.
Judges, politicians, and prosecutors pushing judicial alterations, sweetheart prosecutions, and 364-day laws are gambling away innocent lives and public safety. They betray their constituents in order to privilege noncitizen criminals.
Lew J. Olowski is staff counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.
Also published at: Lew J. Olowski, Look at the Scam That’s Enabling and Protecting Unlawful Residents of Our Country, LifeZette, August 15, 2019.