Caribbean Immigrants Fighting Deportation Now Face More Limited Options

No Halloween Trick Or Treat from AG William Barr. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Oct. 31, 2019: It’s not a ‘trick or a treat’ but the reality of the continued Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

Caribbean and other immigrants fighting deportation from the U.S. now have even more limited options after U.S. Attorney General William Barr recent two decisions.

The little-noticed decisions, made through the attorney general’s unique “certification” power, disqualifies people with multiple drinking and driving convictions from many paths to legal immigration status. It also removes a long-standing path to stop deportation for people with old criminal convictions.

Barr can make such sweeping decisions over immigration law because unlike most of the federal court system, immigration court is part of the executive branch, not the judiciary, and is housed within the Department of Justice.

Barr ruled that two or more Driving Under the Influence convictions disqualify an immigrant from having “good moral character.”

DUIs are the most common criminal conviction for people arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to federal data obtained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. They are among the most common crimes in many states, and are not deportable offenses on their own.

The “good moral character” standard is used throughout the immigration system. Immigrants must prove they have had good moral character for a set period of years when requesting cancellation of a deportation order and in applying for citizenship, among other immigration processes.

The second instance decreases the ability of state courts to influence the federal deportation process through adjusting old low-level criminal sentences. For years, sentence modifications were accepted by immigration judges. But Barr’s decision changes that, limiting which modifications can count in immigration court. To count, a modification must be specifically because of an error in the procedure of the case, not to avoid deportation.