Immigration Enforcement Already Fraught with Problems

A Latina immigrant victim of sex trafficking gets locked up for months. A 40-year lawful resident is deported for shoplifting. Sounds like Arizona’s new immigration law – but it isn’t. Under current U.S. federal immigration law, cases like these happen every day.

Arizona’s law will require police to stop, question and arrest anyone they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally. People will be able to sue cities or towns they believe aren’t being vigilant enough in arresting undocumented migrants. As a result, police officers will be under pressure to make an arrest, even when in doubt, rather than risk a lawsuit. Expect a lot of wrongful arrests and arbitrary detentions, including of people lawfully in the country.

Trouble is, under federal immigration law, a lot of migrants already are detained who shouldn’t be. In certain circumstances federal immigration law mandates the detention of people who are legally in the country and are neither dangerous nor at risk of absconding.

The law allows deportation of a person with a green card if the person has served a prison sentence, even for a minor nonviolent crime. It offers judges no chance to keep families together even when the person facing deportation is a military veteran with a drug conviction stemming from an addiction developed during service in Vietnam.


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