Probation Before Deportation
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Probation Before Deportation

Should immigrants be punished for minor crimes they committed years ago?

Probation Before Deportation

"You've been arrested?!" I yelled out in shock. I probably shouldn't have—it was never polite to stare with your mouth open. Or yell. "Yeah…." one of the girls in my fraternity (the frat is co-ed) said hesitantly. I wasn't the only one in shock. Around me, my fellow fraternity brothers chimed in with their own sentiments of disbelief. A chorus of, "What happened?" and "I know a good lawyer if you need one!" echoed around the room.

The girl, meanwhile, sank lower in her chair—as if regretting admitting her crimes of underage drinking and possession of a fake I.D. She rushed on, clearly feeling the need to explain herself. "I'm on probation right now and I have an upcoming court date." The statement was clearly intended to sedate everyone's curiosity yet it had the opposite effect. Immediately, questions were thrown at her from all directions, each one more probing than the last. And with each question, the girl sank lower and lower in her chair—ashamed and embarrassed by what she had done.

Since the girl in my fraternity is a citizen of the U.S., she was entitled to certain rights when she was arrested. These rights are guaranteed by our Constitution. Since underage drinking is a misdemeanor, the girl in my fraternity would not have needed a speedy jury trial, one of her rights (even though she is entitled to one).

Immigrants, whether they are illegal or not, are not entitled to these same rights if they get arrested. If an immigrant gets arrested for a crime, they are taken in the custody of local law enforcement. Even after serving out their sentences, these formerly convicted immigrants are not free. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers have the authority to arrest immigrants who have been previously convicted of crimes sometime in the future. This can happen even if the formerly convicted immigrants have served out their sentences.

For citizens of the US, misdemeanor crimes like underage drinking are punished by probation and hefty fines. For immigrants, misdemeanor crimes can cause them to be deported. Why such a serious punishment for such a small crime? The answer lies in a law that Justice Kavanaugh recently cited in a Supreme Court case on October 10, 2018.

The law, known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act, was passed in 1996. Its intended purpose? To deport immigrants who overstay their visas, commit a misdemeanor, or commit a felony.

This obscure immigration law was brought to light when the Supreme Court had to determine whether or not immigrants could be detained for long periods of time for minor misdemeanor crimes that were committed years ago.

Justice Kavanaugh took a hard stance on the issue. His final thoughts? That immigrants should be punished for the actions they committed years ago. Yet, he fails to consider whether or not the accused immigrant has changed their ways and learned their lesson. He fails to consider whether or not the accused immigrant has served their time for their mistakes.

No matter what issues we as a society are presented with today, let's keep moving forward. As we embrace new ideas and movements about what we believe our world should look like, we shouldn't forget the purpose past laws have served. But we shouldn't let them stop us from creating change either.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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