Court Deportation Proceedings: Immigration enforcement perpetuates a culture of fear and distrust, creating irreparable damage when separating immigrant families and communities.

Insights and Analyses

  • In recent years, the total number of deportation cases initiated has increased significantly. In 2017, there was a total of 41,082 deportation cases initiated across the state. By 2019, that number was 68,794.
  • Throughout the state, among all deportation cases initiated between 2001 and 2019, 42% were issued a removal order as of 2020.
  • As of 2020, across the state, among all deportation cases initiated between 2001 and 2019, 76% of deportation cases that were not represented legally were issued removal orders. By comparison, out of all deportation cases that were represented legally, 16% were issued removal orders.
  • Contrary to the Trump administration’s claims, research of government data reveals that in a majority of situations, immigrants placed in removal proceedings actually appear for their court hearings. This mischaracterization of appearance rates is often due to those citing the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) “in absentia rate,” which does not include all of those who appear in immigration court. Among immigrants not held in government custody, 83% of all immigrants placed in removal proceedings between Fiscal Year 2008 to June 2019, appeared in immigration court. That rate was higher, at 97%, for individuals who were represented by an attorney.
  • A study examining data from 2012-2015 revealed that 68% of detained immigrants throughout California were unrepresented. Moreover, that same study showed that detained immigrants who had access to counsel succeeded more than five times as often than those that were unrepresented.
  • Although Black immigrants composed only 5% of the undocumented population in the U.S., they composed nearly 11% of all immigrants in removal proceedings between 2003 and 2015.
  • Immigration enforcement policies extend beyond individuals, separating and harming families. Throughout California, that meant that about 1,441,000 families with at least one undocumented adult were impacted in 2018.
  • Research shows that family separation creates long-term developmental impacts for children and families, including psychological, social, and health problems that extend beyond reunification.
  • In 2017, the California Values Act or SB 54, was signed, limiting state and local law enforcement’s collaboration with immigration enforcement. Although SB 54 has reduced immigration arrests, there is more work to be done to ensure full compliance with SB 54 and implementation of stronger protections that are inclusive of all immigrants.  
  • Research shows that sanctuary counties, or counties that do not collaborate with federal immigration enforcement by holding people past their release date, are safer than nonsanctuary counties, as families can remain together, local economies are strengthened, and crime rates are lower.
  • Accelerated dockets have been used by the U.S. government to accelerate immigration proceedings while simultaneously severely restricting timelines and creating additional barriers for individuals seeking asylum. Court notices are often sent to incorrect addresses or have inaccurate and insufficient information, impeding individuals’ right to find and access counsel.
  • The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) have forced certain asylum seekers to remain in Mexico as they request asylum, and ultimately until their case is decided, creating additional barriers and dangers for individuals seeking safety. Prior to this policy, asylum seekers were able to remain in the U.S. as their cases were processed. In addition many individuals under MPP face barriers in accessing representation. An analysis of data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) shows that less than 5% of individuals under MPP had a lawyer: through the end of December 2019, out of 59,241 asylum seekers that were involved in court proceedings, only 2,765 had legal representation.

The Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice’s (IC4IJ) rapid response network provides services and resources to refugees released from detention.

In May of 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began busing detained refugees to the downtown San Bernardino Greyhound station and dropping them off without any resources. The Executive Director of IC4IJ, Javier Hernandez, describes how their Rapid Response Network became involved in the refugee migration crisis in the Inland Valley: “It was May 14th when the drop-offs of refugees at Greyhound station [by ICE] began. I believe the first day was about 10 to 15 people… On the 17th, there were 68, and the highest number of drop-offs we saw was 72 people in one day. At that point, we activated our network.” In response, the IC4IJ activated their rapid response network to coordinate support, deliver food, and create shelters. Within one day, a local church opened their doors and over 100 volunteers showed up to help. “What we’re going to do is where [the administration] wants to create chaos, we’re going to welcome people, and we’re going to create a shelter, and we’re going to welcome people and give them the dignity and respect that they deserve, and that’s how we got involved with the migrant situation in San Bernardino,” said Hernandez. IC4IJ continues to provide services and advance immigrant justice in the Inland Valley through policy advocacy, community organizing and education, and rapid response to ICE and border patrol operations. More recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, IC4IJ coordinated the Immigrant Liberation Fund to assist detained immigrants who are at higher risk of contracting the virus and have been released from the Adelanto Detention Center on bond, but are still detained because they are unable to afford to pay the bond. Learn more about the organization, the network, and their work with immigrants and refugees here.

Photo credit: Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice

The California Values Act seeks to demonstrate the state’s commitment to protect the rights of undocumented and immigrant Californians.

As a result of ongoing grassroots advocacy, the state passed the California Values Act (SB 54), prohibiting state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources for immigration enforcement purposes. The bill includes prohibitions on immigration holds, arrests on civil immigration warrants, inquiries about an individual’s immigration status, sharing personal information with ICE, and notifying ICE of release dates. Furthermore, this law requires state facilities, including courts, to implement policies outlining their commitment to protect Californians regardless of status, ensuring these places are accessible to all.

A report by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, University of Oxford, and Border Criminologies found that within the first five months of implementation there was an immediate reduction in immigration arrests in local jails, however some agencies are still not in compliance with this law. In addition, some advocates noted that this legislation falls short of protecting all immigrants as exemptions and loopholes in SB 54 are often used by local law enforcement agencies to continue to work with immigration enforcement agencies. A 2019 analysis of Orange County’s immigration policies by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Resilience Orange County, and the University of California, Irvine, found that law enforcement agencies in Orange County were continuing to work with ICE. One example discussed in the report, confirms instances where Orange County law enforcement turned over undocumented immigrants arrested on minor offenses to ICE, despite state law prohibiting this practice.

Despite the positive achievements of SB 54, organizations including the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) and Silcon Valley De-Bug still call for greater protections. YJC withdrew its support once protections were removed. For example, SB 54 exempts the state prison system and immigrant youth tried as adults who have been transferred to ICE rather than released after many years in prison and deported to countries they have no connection to. YJC, De-Bug, and others – as organizations impacted by crimmigration policies – believe protections should not be exclusive and preserve every family's unity. You can read a De-Bug member’s take here

To learn more about the impact and limitations of SB 54, read Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, University of Oxford Centre for Criminology, and Border Criminologies’ full report here. Read the report discussing Orange County law enforcement’s relationship with ICE here. To learn more about the ICE out of CA campaign, click here.

Photo credit: Peg Hunter