MERCED — In a book due out next year, a UC Merced professor says a lack of judicial discretion leads to a disproportionate number of deportations to Latin America and the Caribbean.
Tanya Golash-Boza, a sociology professor, said 98 percent of all deportees are sent to those two regions.
People from Latin America and the Caribbean make up about 60 percent of non-U.S. citizens living in the United States.
"When you have a combination of a law that sounds unfair to a lot of people, combined with a law that is primarily enforced on black and Latino men," Golash-Boza said, "I think a lot people say, 'That's not really fair.' "
She interviewed more than 150 people deported to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Guatemala. Many were brought to the United States as children and lived here for decades.
The study is the basis of her book, "Deported," which comes out in 2014.
She focused on Jamaica and the Dominican Republic because they are the two countries with the most people deported on criminal grounds. Brazil and Guatemala have the most people deported on noncriminal grounds.
Golash-Boza said two drug infractions considered an aggravated felony can get a legal resident deported.
She said immigration judges are not allowed to consider other evidence. Some of those interviewed, Golash-Boza said, had drug possession charges 30 years apart. Others were veterans of U.S. Armed forces, or grandparents with families here.
Few deported for violence
Golash-Boza gave an example of a man who worked construction and was deported on an aggravated felony drug conviction. His wife was left working a minimum-wage job to support three children.
"She has to turn to public assistance," she said. "Of course, the kids have to suffer for never getting to see (their father) again."
Residents convicted of an aggravated felony drug conviction can't return to the United States.
Golash-Boza's study was based on 2005 and 2006 data released by the Department of Homeland Security.
Golash-Boza said the criminal charges vary depending upon the country of origin of deportees, but most are drug possession charges. "Only about 7 percent of people who are deported on criminal grounds are deported after being convicted of violent crime," she said.
Racial profiling plays a part in the disproportionate number of deportations of people of black or Latin descent, Golash-Boza said. She pointed to New York's policy of "stop and frisk" as an example.
Changes in immigration law are a big part of the story, as the number of those being deported continues to rise.
In 1995, immigration officials deported about 50,000 people. That number went up to 150,000 in 1997, after Congress made less-serious offenses into deportable infractions.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then-President George W. Bush established the Department of Homeland Security, which put more money and manpower behind immigration enforcement. By 2007, there were about 300,000 deportations.
In the past, border patrol agents were the ones to begin the deportation process in most cases, Golash-Boza said. "Increasingly, police officers are the first point of entry," she said.
Golash-Boza is the author of "Due Process Denied," "Immigration Nation" and "Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru."
Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.