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 were a total of 41,035 deportation cases initiated across the state. By 2019, that number was 71,068.
  • Throughout the state, among all deportation cases initiated between 2001 and 2021, 40% were issued a removal order as of 2021.
  • As of 2021, across the state, among all deportation cases initiated between 2001 and 2021, 71% 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.
  • Studies have shown that most immigrants placed in removal proceedings actually appear for their court hearings. An analysis by the American Immigration Council (AIC) points out the limited nature of the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) metrics on missed court appearances. The AIC’s analysis reveals that between Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 through 2018, 83% of all non-detained immigrants with a completed or pending removal case attended all their court hearings. Moreover, during that same time frame, 96% of all represented immigrants attended all their court hearings. The analysis further shows that 15% of immigrants who were in removal proceedings due to a missed court appearance, reopened their cases and had their removal orders overturned, suggesting that those who did not appear in court likely faced barriers in doing so.  
  • A study examining data from 2012-2015 revealed that 68% of detained immigrants throughout California lacked legal counsel. 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 and 7% of the non-citizen population in the U.S., they composed nearly 11% of all immigrants in removal proceedings between 2003 and 2015. Additionally, Black immigrants are impacted by both the immigration and criminal legal system, meaning Black immigrants are more likely to be deported on criminal rather than immigration grounds. In Fiscal Year 2013, about 76% of Black immigrants were deported on criminal grounds.
  • Research shows that family separation creates long-term developmental impacts for children and families, including psychological, social, and health problems that extend beyond reunification.
  • A report examining the impact and implementation of SB-54 among 169 law enforcement agencies (LEAs) throughout California, showed that between January 2018 and May 2018, SB 54 had reduced immigration arrests. Yet the report pointed to the need to ensure full compliance with SB 54 across all localities and implementation of stronger protections that are inclusive of all immigrants. Further, a 2022 report by the ACLU of Northern California examining immigration enforcement locally in the Central Valley, reveals that local law enforcement agencies continue to undermine protections for immigrants set forth in policies like the TRUST, TRUTH, and California Values Act or SB 54. For example, their analysis of TRAC data shows that throughout the Central Valley, in FY 2021, 1,571 immigrants were placed in removal proceedings. By 2014 (when the TRUST Act went into effect) that number doubled to 3,224, and in 2019 (after the Values Act went into effect) that number surged to 7,404. The report also calls for the need for stronger protections such as those outlined in the VISION Act, which would have prevented immigrants from being funneled into immigration detention (in August 2022, despite community support and advocacy, the bill failed to pass through the state senate by only three votes). 
  • A 2017 report by the Center for American Progress found that sanctuary counties, or counties that do not collaborate with federal immigration enforcement by holding people past their release date, are safer than non-sanctuary counties, as families can remain together, local economies are strengthened, and crime rates are lower.
  • In 2021, the Biden administration established “dedicated dockets” in 11 cities to rapidly process asylum cases. The program tried to distinguish itself from “accelerated dockets” which 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. According to a report by the UCLA Law Immigrants’ Rights Policy Clinic analyzing TRAC data, these dedicated dockets mirror accelerated dockets that curtail due process for asylum seekers. Their analysis shows that about 70% of people on the L.A. Dedicated Docket do not have access to legal representation. Moreover, as of February 2022, among the 449 completed cases, 99% resulted in removal orders and only 1% in relief.
  • Implemented in 2019 under the Trump administration, Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) significantly changed asylum processes at the U.S. southern border. Referred to as MPP 1.0 under the Trump administration, MPPs forced certain asylum seekers to remain in Mexico as they requested asylum, and ultimately until their case was decided, creating additional barriers and dangers for individuals seeking safety. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, MPP hearings were suspended periodically creating further challenges for asylum seekers. For example, harsh living conditions in shelters and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, forced many migrants to make the decision to return to their home countries and children were separated from their families, as they crossed the border alone. As Biden took office, legal battles over the program's termination resulted in the program’s suspension and reinstatement in 2021 (referred to as MPP 2.0 due to changes to the program). Nevertheless, data suggests that under MPP 1.0, a majority of immigrants did not have access to legal representation and obtaining relief under this program was nearly impossible (a pattern likely to continue under MPP 2.0). An analysis of TRAC data on MPP deportation proceedings through October 2021 showed that about 8% of migrants under MPP 1.0 had access to legal representation. In addition, by December 2020, only 521 of the 42,012 MPP cases that had been completed under MPP 1.0, were granted relief. As of August 11, 2022 after several legal battles over the program’s termination, MPPs were terminated. Nevertheless, MPPs will have long-lasting impacts for the many immigrants who were enrolled.

The Los Angeles Justice Fund (LAJF), a public-private partnership, shielded vulnerable immigrant families from separation due to deportation and strengthened the deportation defense infrastructure of the Los Angeles region.

Established in 2017, LAJF is a public-private partnership created in response to the harmful policy priorities enacted under the Trump administration that includes the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, the Weingart Foundation, and the California Community Foundation (CCF). The Fund was designed with the objective of protecting Angeleno families from the impacts of deportation by providing access to counsel. Research shows that legally represented immigrants are likely to fare better at every stage of the court process, yet challenges to obtaining legal representation exist. This is especially true for vulnerable immigrant populations who may face additional barriers to accessing resources. As such, LAJF was designed to assist some of the most vulnerable immigrant populations, including unaccompanied minors, victims of domestic violence, immigrants seeking asylum, immigrants in detention, and LGBTQ+ immigrants. However, one limitation of the program design was that the requirements to access the Fund excluded certain immigrants due to residency requirements and prior criminal backgrounds – an exclusion that disproportionately impacts Black immigrants. Designed as a two-year pilot with an initial expiration date set in 2019, the Fund was extended temporarily until June 2021. LAJF consisted of 11 organizations that provide direct legal services for adults and children; six additional organizations that provide technical support and training; CCF who administered the program; and the Vera Institute of Justice, Center on Immigration and Justice (Vera) who conducted an evaluation. Although there were some lessons to be learned during the pilot phase of the fund, LAJF nevertheless played a critical role in ensuring that vulnerable immigrant communities were able to navigate a complex court system with adequate support and resources; protected families from separation; and strengthened the removal defense pipeline in the City and County of L.A.

In 2021, after much advocacy from numerous stakeholders, including Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) who proposed a four-pillar framework for a new iteration of LAJF, the County passed a motion to adopt the new framework. In May 2022, the City voted to do the same and included other recommendations. One key component of the framework is incorporating a merits-blind approach to providing representation by removing the criminal background requirement. Learn more about the new program, Represent LA here. To read ERI’s reports on the bridge funding phases of LAJF click here. Read the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s report about lessons and recommendations from the LAJF’s pilot phase here. Read the Vera Institute of Justice’s Year 2 evaluation of LAJF here.

Photo credit: California Immigrant Policy Center

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

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