Deportation of Legal Permanent Residents, Godfrey Gillett
On February 20, 2004, The New York Times reported that 65 year old retired physicist Anatoly Bogudlov was arrested by Department of Homeland Security agents at Kennedy Airport when he returned from a trip to Moscow. Dr. Bogudlov has been a legal permanent resident since 1996. He applied for political asylum as a Soviet Jew in 1992. A hearing was scheduled for Dr. Bogudlov's asylum application in 1999 and a notification of the hearing was sent to a wrong address. His failure to show up for the asylum hearing eventually resulted in a final order of removal judgment being rendered against him. Dr. Bogudlov's detention came about as a part of the Alien Absconder Apprehension Initiative. The Initiative, announced in January 2002, is part of government efforts to enforce deportation laws and deportation proceedings. However, his case is indicative of one of my criticisms of the laws regarding deportation in this country: there is no rhyme or reason behind subjecting legal permanent residents to deportation for violations that occur prior to their obtaining legal status nor is there any good reason to subject them to deportation for non-criminal violations.
Proponents of the lack of a statute of limitations and the general applicability of the deportation laws to permanent legal residence argue that this is a way to ensure the safety of America's borders and will help to rid the country of those persons who pose a threat to American society. To those proponents I point to the fact that prior to the Initiative the INS Commissioner announced in December of 2001 that there were approximately 314,000 fugitive deportees whose whereabouts were unknown, and by the end of May 2002 only 585 of these persons were located. To this I counter that an inefficient system of enforcement is responsible for the outstanding number of fugitives. In May of 2002 in the wake of the 9/11/01 attacks there were only 14 immigration agents and 9 police investigators assigned to find and deport roughly 1,200 illegal immigrants from countries where the organization Al Qaeda, which is reportedly responsible for the attacks, is active. I also counter that these numbers do not reflect the number of persons who are alien fugitives due to criminal activity but instead only reflect persons who are deemed deportable under laws that group criminals and non-criminals as well as residents and non-residents in the same category.
Even though Dr. Bogudlov is a legal permanent resident he must now appear before a hearing judge in order to determine whether he is deportable. He is fortunate that his detention was the result of a mistake on the part of the bureaucracy and his case should be disposed of relatively quickly.
In order to make the deportation laws more efficient and rational I would implement a system by which persons who are subject to criminal arrests and convictions are immediately screened regarding immigration status. I would then grant concurrent jurisdiction of the criminal justice system and the INS in order to ultimately determine deportability. I would also limit the deportation of permanent residents to the crimes that are described as aggravated felonies under the penal system.
Finally, I would grant amnesty to persons who become legal permanent residents in regards to deportability for any violations that have occurred prior to their becoming legal permanent residents. I would also grant amnesty to such persons for non-criminal violations of immigration laws. This way, persons who establish a life of family and community in the United States are not continuously threatened by the possibility of being uprooted, unless they commit acts that put them in contact with the criminal justice system after having been granted legal permanent status.