The Bronx Defenders’ Statement in Response to President Obama’s announcement on Executive Immigration Action
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jennifer Friedman, The Bronx Defenders, 718-508-3408 or JenniferF@bronxdefenders.org
Last night, families around the Bronx held their breath as the President announced sweeping changes that will expand work authorization and protect millions of immigrants from deportation.
At The Bronx Defenders—and for the families we represent—the announcement was met with a mix of great excitement and deep disappointment. The Bronx is a borough of immigrants, and countless families here have been ripped apart by deportation. Our hopes for the new policies announced by the President are high.
The Bronx, however, is one of the most over-policed areas in the country. Tens of thousands of Bronx residents—particularly Bronx residents of color, including immigrants—have criminal records because of minor conduct that goes unprosecuted in more affluent communities. Without money for bail and facing a drastically overburdened court system, many low-income Bronx residents accept guilty pleas and jail sentences to hasten their release. Many who have been convicted have served jail sentences, completed programs, and paid court fees and fines. They are ready to return to their families and contribute to their communities, but in most cases they will not qualify for relief under the new policy.
For instance, the new forms of relief from deportation that were extended to parents of U.S. citizen children or permanent residents will not be available to parents with certain misdemeanor convictions, including those who have a single conviction for Driving Under the Influence, or any offense for which they were sentenced to 90 days or more in jail, as well as other offenses.
“This policy will exclude many hard-working immigrants who are also important members of our community—many of whom may have lived in the United States for decades, have strong ties to the community, and whose deportation would devastate their families,” explained Bronx Defenders Director of Immigration Advocacy Jennifer Friedman. “We are also concerned that many immigrants could expose themselves to deportation if they apply for the new relief despite minor convictions that make them ineligible.”
“We welcome the Administration’s decision to amend the priority categories for deportation, but we strongly urge the President to reconsider making noncitizens with even misdemeanor convictions a top priority for deportation. Because of over-policing in the Bronx and low income communities of color around the country, this policy will lead to the banishment of tens of thousands of longtime residents and the permanent separation of as many families.”
The Bronx Defenders calls on the Administration to recognize that the nation’s already harsh immigration laws do not affect everyone equally and to consider the interests of all of our community members, including the children and families of immigrants accused or convicted of crimes, in setting enforcement priorities.
Over-policing and economic factors that lead people into the criminal justice system disproportionately affect the Bronx and communities like the Bronx. Immigration law already provides extremely broad provisions for the deportation of noncitizens with criminal convictions, even for minor convictions or for individuals who have shown rehabilitation. There is no need for further criminal enforcement mechanisms. Our focus should be on paving a road for stability and work authorization for as many long-time community members as possible.
Finally, for those who believe they may qualify for a new immigration benefit under tonight’s announcement, we offer this advice: consult with a qualified lawyer or legal services organization before submitting an application. We strongly encourage anyone who has ever been arrested or ticketed for any offense—no matter how minor, and even if it was dismissed—to seek expert legal advice from a reputable immigration lawyer who thoroughly understands the immigration consequences of criminal justice contact before applying for these or any other immigration benefits.