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Professor: Immigration Reform Should Consider Families, Social Ties

August 12, 2013
Professor Tanya Golash-Boza interviewed about 130 men who were born outside the U.S., immigrated legally at a young age and grew up within the country

MERCED, Calif. — Immigration judges should be allowed to consider a person’s family and social ties to the United States before ordering the deportation of legal permanent residents for minor offenses, says a professor at the University of California, Merced.

“The reason legal permanent residents can be deported for minor crimes — even if they have lived in the United States for many years — is that there is little to no due process in immigration courts,” sociology Professor Tanya Golash-Boza said. “Under current laws, if a person has a prior conviction for a wide range of crimes, the judge has no judicial discretion.”

Ninety-eight percent of all deportees are sent to Latin America and the Caribbean even though people from those countries do not make up 98 percent of all immigrants, she said.

“U.S. deportation policies are draconian and target specific populations,” Golash-Boza said. “Unfortunately in the current immigration reform debate, this has little chance of changing.”

Golash-Boza will talk about her research into the policing, profiling and assimilation of male immigrants from Jamaica, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic at the American Sociological Association’s annual conference.

Golash-Boza interviewed about 130 men who were born outside the U.S., immigrated legally at a young age and grew up within the country. They fall between being first- and second-generation immigrants; they’re 1.5-generation immigrants.

The insights are just another example of how UC Merced research can help inform policymakers as they try to tackle some of the country’s biggest challenges, such as immigration reform.

Jamaican and Dominican immigrants often live in heavily policed neighborhoods, and are likely to be picked up on drug charges, Golash-Boza said. Even though Jamaicans and Dominicans use drugs at similar rates to other immigrants, they are more likely to face deportation for drug convictions because of where they live and because of racial profiling. As an immigrant, a person’s mistakes have much more serious consequences for the individual and for family members who remain in the United States.

“It is jarring for people to be deported if they have spent 40 of their 42 years in the U.S.,” she said. “For many of the deportees, they were the primary breadwinners and now have to live apart from their families — and know that they and their families live in poverty.”