The Trump administration has reopened the cases of hundreds of undocumented immigrants whose deportations were previously deferred under the Obama administration, according to Reuters.
Between March 1 and May 31, federal prosecutors moved to reopen more than 1,300 immigration cases, according to Reuters’s analysis of Executive Office of Immigration Review data — more than three times the number reopened under the Obama administration in the same period of 2016.
Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the agency was now filing motions with immigration courts to reopen cases where illegal immigrants had “since been arrested for or convicted of a crime.”
“This is a sea change, said attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people.”
Elzea said the agency reviews cases, “to see if the basis for prosecutorial discretion is still appropriate.”
In the 32 reopened cases examined by Reuters:
“–22 involved immigrants who, according to their attorneys, had not been in trouble with the law since their cases were closed.
–Two of the cases involved serious crimes committed after their cases were closed: domestic violence and driving under the influence.
–At least six of the cases involved minor infractions, including speeding after having unpaid traffic tickets, or driving without a valid license, according to the attorneys.”
In Gilberto Velasquez’s case, for example, he was cited for driving without a license in Tennessee, where illegal immigrants cannot get licenses, he said.
“I respect the law and just dedicate myself to my work,” he said. “I don’t understand why this is happening.”
Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said that revisiting previously closed matters will add to a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.
“If we have to go back and review all of those decisions that were already made, it clearly generates more work,” she said. “It’s a judicial do-over.”