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Gilberto Velasquez, a 38-year old house painter from El Salvador, was deemed safe from deportation in September 2014 after a policy initiated by former President Barack Obama withheld from deporting immigrants who made deep ties in the United States and weren’t considered a threat to public safety.
However, Velasquez, who has lived in the Unites States illegally since 2005 and has a U.S.-born child, received startling news just last month. President Trump incited the government to put his deportation case back on the court calendar
Under the Trump administration, cases of hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been reopened. The immigrants behind these matters, like Velasquez, were given a reprieve from being deported during the Obama era.
Trump’s promise of cracking down on illegal immigrants is clearly taking effect and more so creating fear within the tens of thousands of undocumented workers in the U.S. who believed they were safe from deportation.
Immigration attorneys claimed cases were only reopened during the Obama administration if the immigrant had committed a serious crime. However, regardless of the immigrants’ innocence, anyone is subject to being deported under the Trump administration.
“This is a sea change, attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told Reuters. “Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people.”
Prosecutors reopened 1,329 cases between March 1 and May 31, according to data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review obtained by Reuters. During the same time frame, the Obama administration had only reopened 430.
Spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Jennifer Elzea said the agency has begun filing motions with immigration courts to reopen undocumented immigrants’ cases if they had “been arrested for or convicted of a crime.” However, the crime could be considered as minor as receiving a traffic ticket.
Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, claimed that reopening matters that have already been closed will create a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.
“If we have to go back and review all of those decisions that were already made, it clearly generates more work,” Marks said. “It’s a judicial do-over.”
Featured Image via Flickr/Michael Righi