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Where Criminal Justice and Immigration Reform Collide

Legal Blog

Does deportation sometimes help defendants avoid prosecution? Immigrants accused of a crime can take advantage of the United States justice and deportation system to evade justice. Thanks to Criminal Justice and Immigration Reform, there are several instances of undocumented immigrants have escaped prosecution for their crimes by deportation.

How are Criminal Justice and Immigration Reform Colliding in NJ?

When deportation interferes with the criminal prosecution system, victims never get their justice. This situation happens because when an illegal immigrant commits a crime and then ICE deports them, the alleged perpetrator is long gone to their home country before the trial even begins. How and why does this happen?

How Does Deportation Affect Immigrants Facing Criminal Justice Charges?

Deportation during criminal justice proceedings is an increasing problem in the United States and New Jersey. Several factors have caused this situation.

  1. There has been an increase in undocumented immigrants in New Jersey.
  2.  The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement department have a more aggressive approach to sending undocumented people back to their country of origin.
  3. New Jersey’s Bail Reform laws

There are several examples of times when immigrants have escaped justice due to deportation. Criminal justice and immigration reform can unintentionally cause this. According to experts, it is not that unusual. This injustice happens in several ways. Here is an example.

Antelmo Velasques

In April of 2018, an undocumented immigrant named Antelmo Valasques ran his car off the road. He had eight people in his van at the time of the accident, and several people were thrown from the vehicle. One of them, a 49-year-old citizen named Rosenberg Escobar Gonzalez of Bridgeton, was killed.

Velasques ran away but got caught by New Jersey’s authorities. The police charged him with death by vehicle and knowingly leaving the scene of the accident.

However, while he was awaiting trial, federal immigration officials deported him back to Guatemala. He will never be brought back to face to consequences of killing someone.

How did this happen? While Velasques was in jail, police notified ICE that he was in the country illegally. They took custody of him. He was released back to Guatemala a month later. Officials are supposed to tell police when they deport someone they have accused of a serious crime. It is unclear whether they did or not in this case.

ICE Deportation Tactics

The conflict between federal immigration authorities and local prosecutors is complex. Immigration advocates say their hardball deportation tactics result in people not getting their fair day in court, and that it creates chaos.

The most significant loophole happens because the law does not require ICE to comply with a state judges order that a detainee appears in court.

Criminal Justice and Immigration Reform

People accused of being in this country illegally face a long process of hearings. These hearings could result in rapid deportation back to someone’s home country or release. Local police or border patrol agents could arrest individuals suspected of being here illegally. Then they get transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. A few different things can happen.

Expedited Removal

When an illegal immigrant gets arrested within 100 miles of the border or has been here less than two weeks, they are eligible for expedited removal. A judge can not review expedited deportation orders.

Notice To Appear

The other option is the traditional immigration court process. ICE gives an immigrant a “notice to appear.” The notice lists the reasons ICE will deport them and gives them ten days to appear in court.

New Jersey’s Bail Reform and Speed Trial Act

The Criminal Justice Reform Act went into law in 2017.  This eliminated cash bail for almost all defendants in New Jersey. One of the main reasons this law came about was that about 12% of inmates were in jail merely because they couldn’t pay bail of $2,500 or less. More impoverished people were languishing in prison, which increased their likelihood of pleading guilty.

The new law uses a risk-analysis system that decides whether to release a person before their trial. The ruling has resulted in a significantly lower prison population. Authorities consider several factors in the assessment.

  • the person’s age at the time of the offense
  • if the offense was violent
  • past convictions
  • pending charges
  • past failures to appear in court

Factors not considered are:

  • ethnicity
  • race
  • geography

The law also states that matters must go to trial within 180 days. An illegal immigrant can avoid justice for their crimes if they are picked up and deported before then.

Unfortunately, this means that lawyers often find out after the fact that the defendant has disappeared. Sometimes, a public defenders office involved in someone’s criminal case is not engaged in their immigration case. Therefore, there is no communication.

If you are accused of a crime or are facing deportation, don’t hesitate to call an experienced attorney. We can answer any questions about criminal justice and immigration reform. Our experts are standing by to schedule a free consultation.

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