March 27, 2014
By Anoop Prasad, Immigrant Rights Staff Attorney
I know it sounds unreasonable to say that we should stop all deportations when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is deporting 400,000 people a year. Over the past decade, I’ve talked to thousands of people being deported. I have yet to ever walk away thinking that we’re a better country because someone was deported.
Democrats and Republicans love competing to be tougher than each other on immigrants with criminal convictions. This week, a former director of ICE published an op-ed asking the question “Who Should We Deport?” My answer to his question is “No one.”
I don’t know if he has ever talked to the people that he’s deported, but I have.
Sok Sophea* is one of those people and a “criminal alien.” He came to the United States as a refugee from Cambodia as an infant and grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Fresno, California. In middle school, he joined a gang. By sixteen, he had been convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to prison as an adult. Eventually, he was paroled, finished school, built a career as an electrician, married, and had children. Years later, immigration agents arrested him and deported him to Cambodia.
After he was deported, his otherwise bubbly daughter was found cutting herself with razor blades at school. I wondered how we could possibly justify inflicting such pain on a child. Later, she was arrested for taking part in a robbery — almost at the same age as her father. It was clear that deportation had made us less safe and more poor as a country. Every deportation sets off a chain of depression and trauma in our families and throughout our country.
Politicians who claim that our deportation machine simply isn’t properly focused are misleading. If our deportation policies were ever based on the public interest, that time has long passed. Our current deportation system is driven by the worst parts of America — the greed of private prison companies and xenophobia. Until, we can truthfully answer why we deport people, we must not allow one more deportation.
*Name and identifying details changed.