LACUSL Speaker Series: Davorin J. Odrcic

Davorin J. Odrcic, Odrcic Law Group, LLC
“Crimmigration 101: How Our Draconian Immigration Laws Deport Virtual Citizens”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 3:30 pm
Lapham Hall 260

For nearly 100 years, noncitizens convicted of certain offenses have been subject to deportation proceedings under the Immigration & Nationality Act. Immigration law, however, has dramatically shifted during the past 25 years not only to expand the range of deportable criminal offenses but to limit avenues of relief from deportation. These changes make deportation a virtual certainty for many immigrants convicted of a wide swathe of felony and misdemeanor offenses. This nexus between criminal convictions and deportation is called “crimmigration.”

Prior to these changes in the law, state and federal judges had the power to issue a Judicial Recommendation Against Deportation (“JRAD”) that was binding upon the immigration authorities. In 1990, JRADs were eliminated from the law. In 1996, Congress went even further by curtailing the discretion of immigration judges to cancel the deportation of immigrants convicted of deportable offenses. As a consequence, “virtual citizens”–or individuals who have lived the majority of their lives in the U.S.–have been routinely deported for even misdemeanor convictions regardless of hardship, their length of residency and family ties in the U.S., genuine rehabilitation, and other equitable factors.

Because the punishment of exile often does not fit the crime, the present system lacks proportionately and fairness. Unfortunately, Congress is not even considering a roll-back of these unjust laws. In fact, the Senate’s current immigration reform bill—which has garnered approval from most pro-reform advocates—contains several provisions that broaden the number of deportable criminal offenses even further.

U.S. immigration policy needs a fundamental swing back to a system that places primary emphasis on an individual’s length of residency for both lawful permanent residents and undocumented immigrants. Such a movement will require policymakers to re-think what it means to belong in the U.S., as well as to appreciate that the benefits of deporting individuals convicted of crimes are often outweighed by their costs.

Presented by the Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies Program. This event is co-sponsored by the UWM Roberto Hernandez Center, Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and Center for International Education