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Obama Administration May Consider Bond Hearings, Other Deportation Policy Changes

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President Obama has been under heavy pressure from immigration reform advocates to address his record rate of deportations — and according to the Los Angeles Times, he may be considering key changes to detention and deportation policy.

According to the Times, Obama may be considering bond hearings for detained immigrants, and changes to deportation policies that would protect immigrant families, including immigrants re-crossing the border to join their families:

Obama administration officials are considering allowing bond hearings for immigrants in prolonged detention, officials said, a shift that could slow the pace of deportations because immigration courts expedite cases of incarcerated immigrants…

Immigration agents are supposed to focus first on expelling immigrants who have entered the country illegally within the last three years as well as those with criminal records, and those with repeat immigration violations.

The proposed revisions would shorten the time from three years to two weeks, and remove repeat violators from the priority list. The new directives also would instruct officers to consider whether detainees have close family ties in the United States.

The meaning of any proposal, of course, would weigh on the success of implementation.  But bond hearings could go a long way toward making the detention system more humane, rather than locking up immigrants for months or even years, when they could be at home with their families and monitored by ankle bracelets or check-ins.  According to the ACLU, a September 2012 federal district court ruling in California that gave 1,262 immigrant detainees bond hearings found 871 of them fit to be released.  Meanwhile, “removing repeat violators” from the deportation priority list could protect immigrants like Alfredo Ramos, who was indicted and nearly deported simply for re-crossing the border to reunite with his family following  a prior removal.

According to the LA Times, however, Eric Holder and his Justice Department have spent years fighting proposals requiring bond hearings, and federal prosecutions of immigrants are at a record high, thanks largely to crackdowns on re-entry.  Obama ordered his review of deportation policy about a month ago, but we do hope he’ll take action to change these punitive detention and deportation policies soon.