Deportation before trial or sentencing is rare, but it’s becoming more common, due to the increased effectiveness of ICE at identifying illegal immigrants in prisons and jails, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy at the Center for Immigration Studies.
Illegal aliens accused of crimes are more likely to be deported before trial as federal immigration procedures become more efficient.
In a Weymouth case, a man from Guatemala was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year after making bail on child rape and other charges. When it came time for him to enter a plea, the agency said, he was not available to be in court, and he was deported a week later.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, said it’s a “new phenomenon,” a result of the increased effectiveness of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials identifying illegal immigrants in prisons and jails.
“This is a symptom of ICE doing its job well,” Vaughan said, “not a symptom of ICE being insensitive to local law enforcement agencies.”
Last fiscal year, the agency deported 3,452 illegal immigrants from state prisons and county jails in New England, a spokesman said.
Though some argue deporting accused criminals is appropriate, under the Constitution it’s not, said Wendy Wayne, director of the immigration impact unit at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defenders office. Everyone is owed a trial, she said.
“Everyone charged with a crime in this country, regardless of their immigration status, is entitled to the same constitutional protections, including the presumption of innocence until found guilty,” she said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has streamlined the deportation process, getting aliens in front of an immigration judge and out of the country more quickly. The agency doesn’t take into account the alien’s criminal status or wait for local agencies to go to trial.
“ICE doesn’t want to wreck these prosecutions,” Vaughan said. “They’re just trying to do their job and avoid criticism for excessively lengthy detentions.”
Vaughan blamed a lack of communication between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local officials for situations like the one in Weymouth where prosecutors thought accused child rapist Genesis Orrego would be in court to enter a plea and the agency was deporting him.
“As long as they are talking to each other, they can prevent this from happening,” she said, noting that officials in some places have instituted no-bail policies for illegal aliens to prevent them from entering federal custody and put on a fast track to deportation.
Local authorities can ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement to have an accused criminal returned state custody. Orrego was out on bail, so there was no state custody.
David Traub, spokesman for the Norfolk County district attorney’s office, said he identified only three people deported during the criminal justice process at the Superior Court level.
One of those was accused rapist Kamil Ostrowski, who was deported to his native Poland in April 2008 before trial. The district attorney’s office had heard from his defense attorney that Ostrowski was in federal custody, but didn’t try to prevent his deportation.
At the District Court level, there is an average of about one deportation a week, Traub said.
“But those aren’t something we necessarily oppose,” he said, noting that most arrests are for minor charges. “It would be almost inconsequential without the immigration matter.”
Allison Manning is at firstname.lastname@example.org.