From the book:

There has long been a societal consensus that the U.S. immigration is broken. However, as one policy analyst has noted, this consensus erodes as soon as discussion turns to reform. Still, dating back to its earliest days, immigration agencies have had severe reputation problems, not only due to inefficiency, but also because of brutality and corruption. When Frances Perkins took over immigration enforcement during the Roosevelt administration (even before there was an “INS”), her very first official act was to eliminate “case fixing and terrorization of aliens,” one infamous component of which had been the extortion of money from legal immigrants on threat of deportation. In the 1970s and 1980s, a series of critical GAO reports focused continual negative attention on INS. The 1981 Select Commission Report referred to the agency as “beleaguered.” Indeed, few, if any, governmental programs have been subject to the sort of sustained criticism that has been leveled against the U.S. immigration and deportation systems. Despite this rather negative consensus, in my personal experience there are many able, intelligent, decent, and compassionate people who toil in these trenches every day. Much of the critique they have faced derives from the impossible tensions of the job.

. . . as one judge wrote more than two decades ago, the system still faces “crushing caseloads,” and “an ever-increasing complexity of issues” with insufficient resources.

. . . the harshness and rigidity of the 1996 changes to deportation law have long been seen as problematic by courts, lawyers, scholars, activists, and even some of the legislators who enacted them.

. . . Among the most poignant and compelling stories one hears in deportation cases are those that describe the effects on individuals, families, and, indeed, on entire communities. In one sense, of course, this is inevitable, obvious, and  perhaps even a goal of deportation. But the more one hears such stories, the more one is struck by the extent of these collateral consequences and their disproportionate harshness. When judges, politicians, reporters, and scholars write about deportation as a sanction that may deprive a “man and his family of all that makes life worthwhile,” this is what they are thinking of.

. . . The deportation and detention systems place families “in crisis” from the moment a family member is arrested and incarcerated. The number of people involved are simply staggering. Some 33 million native-born citizens have at least one foreign-born parent. Further, among the estimated 12 million undocumented people in the United States, more than 1.5 million are children. In 2009, Human Rights Watch estimated that over 1 million family members have been forcibly separated by deportation. Unfortunately, we may never know the full effects of our recent deportation delirium on long-term residents because the government has failed to keep comprehensive accurate data on deportations from the United States. Such data are especially important because the losses are felt acutely throughout U.S. communities: “shops close, entrepreneurs lose their business partners, tax revenues are lost, and most tragically, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are forced to confront life without their fathers, mothers, children, husbands, or wives.”

From the book jacket:

Since 1996, when new, harsher deportation laws went into effect, the United States has deported millions of noncitizens back to their countries of origin. While the rights of immigrants–with or without legal status–as well as the appropriate pathway to legal status are the subject of much debate, hardly any attention has been paid to what actually happens to deportees once they “pass beyond our aid.” In fact, we have fostered a new diaspora of deportees, many of whom are alone and isolated, with strong ties to their former communities in the United States.

. . . Few know that once deportees have been expelled to places like Guatemala, Cambodia, Haiti, and El Salvador, many face severe hardship, persecution and, in extreme instances, even death.


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