By: Attys. Robert L. Reeves and Elsie V. Hui

According to one senior immigration enforcement official in Washington and the Los Angeles Times, the enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) may begin detaining any aliens who are appealing deportation or removal orders issued by an immigration court. The program is currently being tested by ICE in only two cities at this time: Atlanta, Georgia, and Denver, Colorado.
The program, called “Operation Compliance,” is being implemented by ICE because of the government’s concern that thousands of aliens abscond while their appeals remain pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals and other federal appellate courts. At this time, aliens without criminal records are generally permitted to remain free (and obtain work authorization in some cases) while they pursue their immigration appeals. Under the pilot program, ICE officers are assigned to immigration courts and promptly arrest individuals who are ordered to leave the United States after losing their cases before the immigration judge. The aliens are taken into custody and held in immigration detention facilities until they exhaust their appeals or post bond.

If the experimental programs at Atlanta and Denver are considered successful, then ICE may seek to implement Operation Compliance nationwide. Immigration attorneys, including those at Reeves & Associates, are alarmed with this blanket detention policy, as it would permit ICE to incarcerate individuals without criminal records or consideration of individual circumstances. They also believe that immigrants have the right to appeal their cases within the U.S. legal system, and may not be able to post the high bonds. Moreover, bed space is limited within the detention facilities, so detaining all immigrants pursuing their immigration appeals would not seem feasible. Consulting a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney is critical to ensuring a successful defense against an order of deportation or removal from the United States.

We are in a period of mean spirited and heavy handed enforcement. Somehow, the INS just does not get the message that the United States of America needs immigrants, all of them. However, this period will pass.