A former Los Angeles public defender offers a deeply informed appeal to create more humane practices for noncitizens facing criminal deportation.
As a criminal defense attorney who, from 2005 to 2009, represented noncitizens in their fight against deportation after criminal convictions, Caldwell (Legal Analysis, Writing, and Skills/Southwestern Law School) came away with the sense that the American legal process does not adequately address the challenges faced by these noncitizens. Subsequent research on a Fulbright Garcia-Robles grant in Mexico in 2009 allowed the author to interview many of the deported people who had grown up in America and who largely considered themselves American: They had been raised there as children and spoke non-accented English; they had sworn allegiance to the American flag in public school; they had assumed all the traditional American customs and holidays. As Caldwell writes, she was influenced in her research by her own “mixed-status family”; she is married to a Mexican man whose family has members struggling with various immigration issues. In this eloquent book, she shares the specific stories and examples of people for whom the sentence of deportation was a form of “violent dismemberment.” The American legal system has long embraced an “exclusionary framework” regarding “aliens,” from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the Immigration Act of 1990, which “created an out-of-court administrative removal process for those convicted of aggravated felonies, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for many years.” This streamlined approach did not take into account the deep American roots of many immigrants as well as the dependence of their spouses and their children. Caldwell looks systematically at the effects of deportation to Mexico on the spouses and children especially (drug abuse, depression, suicide, attractions to gangs) and how this inhumane banishment should be amended.
A compelling, rigorously researched legal argument against the demonization of deportees.