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A closer Look at the United States’ Strict Deportation Policies

Most U.S. citizens pay little attention to the nation's specific immigration laws, choosing instead to focus more on the country's general policies regarding immigrants. However, taking a closer look at U.S. deportation laws reveals draconian rules that permanently remove legal residents for minor crimes.

Current U.S. deportation policy

Deportation, also called removal, affects hundreds of thousands of individuals every year. According to U.S. law, any immigrant, even those in the country as legal residents, who commits a crime at any point in his or her lifetime will be permanently deported to the country where he or she was born.

Immigrants can be deported for a single conviction for a range of crimes from minor misdemeanors to felonies, including non-violent offenses. Deportation may occur years and even decades after an individual has served his or her sentence.

The sad result of this policy is that many legal residents of the United States, some of whom have been residents of the U.S. since early childhood, may be removed from the country they consider home for minor crimes like shoplifting. These individuals have little or no connection to the countries in which they were born and are permanently disconnected from family and friends who remain in the U.S.

Deportation law: removal with no exceptions

The most troubling aspect of the nation's deportation policy is that it does not consider the nuances of each individual's case. Under current law, if an immigrant is convicted of a crime, deportation is mandatory no matter how minor the offense is or how long ago it occurred.

Also disturbing is the lack of guaranteed legal representation for immigrants in this difficult circumstance. Since immigration cases are heard in civil rather than criminal court, immigrants are not guaranteed a right to legal counsel.

Deportation and illegal immigration

Deportation also targets those individuals who enter the country illegally. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act required U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport no fewer than 400,000 immigrants every year. This number can include what ICE calls "criminal aliens," or those who have served time for crimes. In 2010, 195,772 criminal aliens were deported from the U.S.

ICE's Criminal Alien Program is designed to identify and deport immigrants, including legal residents, who are currently serving sentences in federal, state and local prisons. Once these individuals complete their sentences, ICE immediately transfers them to deportation detention centers where they are processed and sent to the countries of their birth. ICE prioritizes cases where the immigrant poses a threat to public security.

Sadly, these types of removals can have a profound effect on the families of deported individuals, especially American-born children. About 4.5 million kids in the U.S. are the American-born children of illegal immigrants. In the first six months of 2012, about 45,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported.

When their parents are deported, communication between child and parent is severed. Often, these children are placed into foster care. Currently, about 5,100 children of deported immigrants are in state foster care. About 20 percent of these kids will be permanently adopted in the United States, which erases a deported parent's legal rights to their children.

The nation's deportation laws do not allow for exceptions in individual cases; one minor conviction early in life could lead to permanent removal from the U.S. and one's family. If you or a loved one has been convicted of a crime and face deportation from the U.S., it is wise to seek out the counsel of an experienced immigration lawyer.

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