Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Summer 2011

Abstract

The United States is still in the midst of a massive deportation experiment that is exceptionally sweeping and harsh by virtually any historical or comparative measure. In the last twenty-five years, the number of non-citizen deportations has exceeded 25 million. It is therefore important to think critically about how deportation is really working, especially as to many hundreds of thousands of green-card holders. These individuals have grown up, been fully acculturated, attended school, and raised families in the United States. Upon deportation, they are separated from their families and sent to places where they frequently have few acquaintances, do not speak the language, lack cultural references, and possess bleak job or life prospects. Many are permanently barred from ever returning to the United States, even temporarily, to visit their parents, spouses, or children. Close scrutiny of the system adds up to a powerful indictment of the accuracy, integrity, justice, and fairness of the deportation system. It indicates that many thousands of deportees may reasonably claim that they should still be in the United States, living with their families. The BIA has, however, ruled that “[r]emoved aliens have, by virtue of their departure, literally passed beyond our aid.” That is to say, in this legal limbo, the deportee fundamentally lacks rights. This rigid, formalist approach means that countless mistakes have likely gone undiscovered, let alone rectified. Slowly, some federal courts of appeals have rejected the BIA's approach. The issue will probably have to be decided by the Supreme Court. But considerably stronger action is needed to bring true integrity to the U.S. deportation system. The Post-Deportation Human Rights Project, based at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College, is a pilot program designed to address the cruel effects of current U.S. deportation policies. The Project aims to conceptualize an entirely new area of “post-deportation” law by merging the best principles of U.S. constitutional law with accepted aspects of international human rights law. The ultimate aim is to advocate, in collaboration with affected families and communities, for the introduction of proportionality, compassion, and respect for family unity into U.S. deportation laws.