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Immigration Attorneys Protest US Resources Caught Up in Complexity

The Hartford Courant recently published a piece about the potential deportation of an army veteran which speaks to the American sense of outrage on more than one level. For starters, while not enrolled in it, Mark Reid fits the profile of the target population of Obama’s Deferred Dream Act to a T. Brought by his parents to the US as a minor, Reid has fought in the armed services for others to enjoy the freedoms now being denied to him. The good news is a federal judge ruled that if he can come up with $25,000, he can make bond. The bad news is that as an indigent Jamaican native, neither Reid, his family, nor his community have $25k cash lying around (or remotely accessible).

Here’s where the Yale Law School Clinic comes in. Representing Reid as his immigration attorneys, the clinic has been Reid’s lucky break, especially when Immigrations and Customs Enforcement “continues to deny this opportunity to others who can’t afford a good attorney.” It’s true, many individuals held without bond and being considered for deportation don’t get access to immigration attorneys. In fact, it is not even within their constitutional rights to be guaranteed legal counsel, so Reid feels fortunate to have the Yale Law School Clinic on his side.

The immigration attorneys working as part of the Immigration Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale are contending that Reid has already been punished for his crimes, as ICE began his deportation process while he was serving a prison sentence in a Brooklyn, CT jail for a non-violent drug conviction. Reform advocates for both immigration and drug policy take issue with Reid’s case with arguments falling on the economic aspects of the policy. With the US currently spending trillions (yes, that much) of dollars on the failed War on Drugs, Reid serves as yet another example of State resources wasted in pursuing individuals who do not threaten the fabric of public safety in America.

If Reid does raise the money and is the immigration attorneys from the clinic assist him to secure his temporary liberty, the cost of Reid’s freedom will be not be paltry trifling to the State. Released into a Continuity of Care residential program and undergoing a mental health and addiction evaluation and any recommended course of treatment, Reid would also be subject to wear an ankle bracelet for constant monitoring. These protective strategies are costly (though not as costly as imprisonment, with incarceration of non-violent drug offenses accounting for 55% of the more than 2.75 million individuals housed in US jails and prisons, or the arrests of individuals for non-violent drug charges at the rate of handcuffing the entire population of the state of New Mexico every year) and serve little purpose. Reid’s immigration lawyers note that he’s not a flight risk—his life for the last 30 years has been lived here, and a forced return to Jamaica would be tantamount to devastation.

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