Immigration court dismisses hundreds of cases; amnesty conspiracy or docket clean-up?

Sylvia Cochran
Yahoo! Contributor Network
"Police officer (U.S.) taking fingerprints"

The Houston Chronicle reported this week that -- after Homeland Security put Houston immigration courts under the microscope -- the immigration court docket suddenly showed in excess of 200 case dismissals, which translates into a 700 percent increase over the previous month. Although hush-hush, it's now come to light that unnamed federal attorneys petitioned Houston courts with motions to dismiss court cases that involved allegedly illegal aliens who did not commit "serious crimes."

With border security a politically charged football in the 2010 midterm elections, any behind-the-scenes goings-on smack of conspiracies. Is the Obama administration tacitly pushing for amnesty in Texas or is the recent immigration court docket purge just a normal purge for the sake of judicial expediency?

Not surprisingly, the allegation of a clandestine Obama administration amnesty -- levied earlier in the year by Mark Krikorian from the Center for Immigration Studies -- did not take long to attach themselves to these case dismissals. In spite of protestations from officials, Raed Gonzalez -- who acts as the go-between for the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the American Immigration Lawyers Association -- says there is a clear-cut list of dismissal qualifications that Homeland Security outlines.

Undocumented immigrants might find their cases dismissed from the Houston immigration court docket if their main crime is illegal immigration and they do not have a felony on their records, any misdemeanors are sufficiently minor and their offenses do not include "DWI, sex crimes or domestic violence."

This essentially dismisses cases against illegal immigrants who have been residing in the United States for a couple of years and somehow got noted for their status -- but who have done precious little else to warrant a court's attention. While those in favor of legalizing the undocumented might see this as a step in the right direction, critics of anything short of deportation point to Immigration and Naturalization's memo on "Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform." It carried a target implementation date of September/October 2010.

Boohooing the suggestion that this type of conspiracy could have been underfoot, liberal-leaning thinkers took to task conservative legislators who contacted the Obama Administration over the ICE memo back in August. These legislators were then accused of "political hype and hypocrisy," according to Those accusing conservatives as doing little more than making political hay off the memo are now eating their words. Or are they?

The problem arises when illegal aliens are sent back to society without an adjustment of status that would allow for legal employment or school enrollment. Adding insult to injury, the cases are dismissed without prejudice, which makes it possible for the state to re-file the charges at any time. Thus, even though this type of catch-and-release judicial behavior may appear meritorious and achieve the goal of unclogging a backed-up court docket, it fails to deal with a person who is guilty of a federal crime (illegal immigration or any other immigration violation). Moreover, unless the immigration law violator chooses to self-deport, this judicial practice forces the individual to (once again?) pursue illegal means of making a living.

Supporters and detractors of the Houston immigration court practice should notice that the Department of Homeland Security is conducting similar docket reviews in Miami, Dallas and "several other cities," which the agency is not willing to discuss. Is this practice lawful? And just as importantly, is it humane and gut-level fair to the individuals behind the court case numbers?