Monday, November 7, 2011

Britain's Immigration farce and the enemy within

When Theresa May entered the Home Office, it appeared likely that her efforts to bring sanity to the nation’s border controls would be challenged by the staunchly pro-immigration Liberal Democrats.
Sadly, this has proved to be the case – with Nick Clegg’s party repeatedly undermining attempts to limit the number of foreign nationals entering the country over the past 18 months.

However, Mrs May now finds herself facing an even more dangerous enemy: her own civil servants at the endemically shambolic UK Border Agency. The real enemy within is the UK border agency who failures have resulted in thousands wrongly entering the country

In recent months, UKBA has allowed a banned preacher of hate to waltz into Britain, repeatedly failed to deport foreign criminals and lost track of enough asylum seekers and illegal immigrants to fill a city the size of Cambridge.

Worse, as we revealed on Saturday, the official paid £135,000-a-year (plus bonuses) to run the UK Border Force relaxed – without ministerial approval – passport and other checks designed to spot potential terrorists, apparently to prevent queues forming during the busy summer months.

Truly the incompetence of UKBA, which underwent endless and utterly ineffectual ‘reform’ under New Labour, knows no limit.
But the suspicion must be that the very ethos of the organisation is also rotten.

UKBA is stuffed to the gunwales with officials who were appointed during the years when Labour operated an entirely open-door immigration policy.

And, even though the government has changed, the bureaucrats remain wedded to the idea that they are somehow performing the country a ‘service’ by letting in all-comers, with no questions asked. Mrs May must change this culture of laxity – and fast.

Rigorous, U.S.-style border checks and queues may not be much fun for Britons returning home from holidaying abroad. But most of us accept that they are far preferable to a terrorist atrocity or murder by a foreign national who should never have set foot in the country in the first place. It’s a great pity those in charge don’t agree.


Immigration officials back away from deportation program

Effort quickened process but raised rights issues

Federal immigration officials have quietly backed away from a program in Arizona and other Western states aimed at quickly and efficiently deporting illegal immigrants rather than keeping them in costly detention centers.

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants, including thousands from Arizona, have been deported under the program over the past several years. Called stipulated removal, it allows the government to quickly deport illegal immigrants held in detention centers as long as they forgo a hearing before a judge to review their legal rights and to determine if they want to fight their case.

Immigration officials hailed the program as cost-effective deportations for people who wanted to go home. Critics worried that the government was strong-arming immigrants to accept deportation without regard for their due-process rights.

Immigration officials changed course in September 2010 after a federal appellate court ruled that an immigrant held in an Eloy detention center had his rights violated. After that, speedy removals were offered only to illegal immigrants with lawyers, who could help them fight their cases. Lawyers are not provided at taxpayer expense in deportation proceedings.

Since then, immigration officials have not deported a single illegal immigrant through the program in Arizona, said Vincent Picard, a spokesman for ICE in Phoenix. Picard could not provide statistics for other states.

ICE officials did not publicize the dramatic policy change. Many immigrant lawyers and critics of the program were unaware the change had been made.

In a deportation proceeding, an illegal immigrant has the right to appear in front of an immigration judge to decide whether to contest the case. The immigrant also has the right to hire a lawyer.

But under stipulated removal, an immigrant who doesn't want to fight deportation gives up the right to a hearing. The immigrant also gives up the right to an appeal. Once the immigrant agrees to those stipulations, the judge signs a deportation order, even if the immigrant is not in the courtroom.

Supporters of stipulated removal, which remains in effect in other parts of the country, say it benefits both the government and illegal immigrants. The program can save time and money.

The illegal immigrant is typically deported within a day or two. In comparison, an illegal immigrant facing deportation can spend weeks or even months in detention. In 2011, the average time was 29 days, according to ICE statistics.

The average daily cost of detention in 2011 was $112.83, said Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman.

"Such agreements between ICE and the alien are advantageous to the government in that it relieves the immigration court of the need to have a hearing, saves ICE additional detention costs, and allows the alien to return to his/her country expeditiously," Picard said in an e-mail.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that favors strict immigration enforcement, said the program should be expanded, not scaled back.

Offering stipulated removal only to immigrants who hire their own lawyers bogs down the judicial process and defeats the purpose of the program: to quickly remove illegal immigrants with no legal grounds to remain in the U.S. who want to go home, Vaughan said. It also clogs up immigration courts, making less room for immigrants with strong legal cases to remain in the U.S.

"I see the greater use of stipulated removal as expediting the inevitable, with the result being swifter access to hearings for the people who are more likely to benefit from them," she said.

Phillip Crawford, a former field director for ICE's enforcement and removal operations in Arizona, said it is a shame that stipulated removals have been curtailed.

The program, he said, had several levels of "safeguards" to ensure that the rights of illegal immigrants were protected and that participants understood what they were signing. Each case was reviewed by ICE officers during processing at detention centers, by ICE prosecutors and by an immigration judge who has the power to reject the deportation if the judge believes the immigrant had legal grounds to remain.

He also said the program targeted illegal immigrants from Mexico convicted of aggravated felonies with little chance of legally remaining in the U.S. "It was an excellent program," Crawford said.


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