Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Non-Citizens Deported Mostly for Nonviolent Offenses

Human Rights Watch issued a report that it says documents for the first time exactly which kinds of non-citizens were deported from the U.S. between 1997 and 2007, and for what types of crimes.

The report says that 72 percent of immigrants deported from the U.S. between 1997 and 2007 were for non-violent offenses. Many of those immigrants were in the U.S. legally.

It shows that some of the most common crimes for which people were deported were relatively minor offenses, such as marijuana and cocaine possession or traffic offenses. Among legal immigrants who were deported, 77 percent had been convicted for such nonviolent crimes. Many had lived in the country for years and were forced apart from close family members.

From an L.A. Times story:

Federal authorities repeatedly have said that their priority was to find and remove illegal immigrants with violent criminal histories, but the U.S. government's stepped-up enforcement in recent years has led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants convicted of nonviolent crimes, according to a new study.

Nearly three-quarters of the roughly 897,000 immigrants deported between 1997 and 2007 after serving criminal sentences were convicted of nonviolent offenses and one-fifth were legal permanent residents, according to the study released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch.

"This explodes the myth that immigrants deported for crimes are invariably people here illegally who committed serious, violent crimes," said David Fathi, director of the New York-based advocacy group's U.S. program. "We know now the large majority are being deported for nonviolent, often quite minor crimes."

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