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In Omaha, a “Test Case” for the New Deportation Policy via Secure Communities

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arrestWe’ve heard a lot of talk about the new immigration deportation policy. Soon, we’re going to see what it means for undocumented immigrants who are in deportation proceedings. Over the weekend, the Omaha World-Herald published the story of Luis Cervantes. He’s a candidate for the relief under the new policy. His case also shows the role Secure Communities plays in getting immigrants into the deportation process:

Luis Cervantes was pushing a shopping cart and collecting recyclables from curbside trash cans when two Omaha beat patrol officers stopped him.

The 30-year-old “kept ignoring” them, the officers said in a report. Though he eventually gave his name to a Spanish-speaking officer, Cervantes offered conflicting birth dates and had no ID on him. He was taken to jail, where he spent two days and was booked on suspicion of stealing a grocery cart.

Only later would officials realize that Cervantes — who has been diagnosed as autistic and moderately mentally retarded — can’t communicate much. He pleaded guilty, was fined $25, and the misdemeanor case was closed.

But by that time, the U.S. Homeland Security Department had been contacted, and the Mexico-born Cervantes last October joined the crowded court docket of illegal immigrants the government wants to deport.

That’s the Secure Communities connection. We’re told that the controversial program is designed to go after serious criminals. Cervantes hardly fits that description. Now, he’s a “test case” for the new deportation policy:

Today Cervantes is poised to be a test case under a new and controversial Obama administration directive to suspend deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants determined to pose no threat to public safety.

Cervantes remains in deportation proceedings. His case is one of the 300,000 that will be reviewed. And his lawyer is planning to use the new policy to provide relief:

The uncertainty of just how or when Obama’s directive will trickle down became evident when Cervantes appeared last week in the Omaha Immigration Court.

He has a mental disability — a positive factor that “should prompt particular care and consideration,” according to the Morton memo, which also points out that prosecutorial discretion may be exercised at any step of a removal proceeding.

But Cervantes — who earlier had been released from federal custody on his own recognizance — was ordered to appear in May 2012 for further deportation court proceedings.

His attorney, Kristin Fearnow, plans to formally request to close Cervantes’ case, based on medical evaluations that federal officials haven’t yet analyzed and on support letters.

 We’ll see if the new policy works.