The recent immigration policies of the federal government are resulting in reports of widespread failure to enforce the laws evenly and responsively, and the failure to provide even a small measure of due process. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of the states where the problem has been especially intensified. This is due in part to the fact that Philadelphia’s regional Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (ICE) arrested more immigrants without convictions than any other in the country in 2017. This has heightened the need for criminal defense attorneys to provide emergency representation for many of these people.
Due to the broad scale of the task undertaken by ICE, chaos reigns in many aspects of the agency’s procedures, and a fair administration of the laws is certainly not intended or noted by experts who observe the process. Pennsylvania ranks 16th among states in terms of its volume of undocumented immigrants. Sixty-four percent of detainees ICE arrested in 2017 were free of any criminal record. Nationally, the same figure is at 38 percent.
Because the main focus has been on deporting those undocumented immigrants who have committed criminal acts, the haphazard practices of ICE continue to raise resentment in local communities, including among people unaffected by the crisis. For example, in one recent case, ICE agents arrested a school teacher in a Muslim school and put him in detention, despite the fact that he had committed no crimes, had no record and was a qualified applicant for political asylum. He is now a rallying point for community supporters through social media campaigns.
A governmental inquiry found other errors in procedure and substantive actions, such as arresting all immigrants in an area indiscriminately in a dragnet-like sweep. Instead of focusing on detaining violent criminals and drug dealers, ICE has expanded the field of arrest to persons with traffic citations and summary offenses, apparently to keep their arrest statistics artificially high. Agents have been caught or observed committing criminal acts themselves on occasion. There are thousands of cases waiting for processing in Pennsylvania, and there is a need for criminal defense attorneys to provide defenses in some of these.
Source: phillymag.com, “Philly’s ICE Office Arrests More Immigrants Without Convictions Than Any Other“, Tracy Jan and Rachel Siegel, April 18, 2018