By Mario Blanch;
Recently a client of mine was arrested for engaging in a fist fight with another individual. There were no injuries and the fight was caused by usual non-sensical macho behavior. Unfortunately for my client he was undocumented, he was issued a “Warrant” complaint. As a result of the Warrant complaint he will be deported back to his country. The man who will be deported was hardworking, had been in this country for over eight years, had no criminal record, and had children who are citizens. In fact, from my conversation with the family, this man paid taxes using an EIN number. The man who will be deported made the mistake of acting foolishly. One mistake has changed the life of this man, his family, his landlord, his children, his employer and everyone who had contact with this man.
Hudson County is home to many immigrants, many of whom are undocumented, and many of whom are looking to establish themselves in this country seeking a better life. Some of these immigrants are here to escape persecution, economic harm, domestic violence and gang related activity in their country. I know because I speak to these people every single day.
Many of the undocumented immigrant population in Hudson County support the economy, pay taxes and have children who are citizens. The deportation of illegal immigrants does not affect only those who are deported, but it affects home owners, the economy, small businesses, and children of these immigrants who are in this country through no fault of their own.
Many municipalities in Hudson County have asserted themselves as so called “Sanctuary Cities” for the immigrant community. However, in order for Hudson County Cities to really be “Sanctuary Cities” it needs to take its role seriously.
Hudson County Municipalities need to implement internal policies consistent with the new reality of Bail Reform. The new Bail Reform law does not allow individuals who have been arrested for a “Warrant” complaint to be bailed out of the police station. Previously many immigrants were bailed out immediately after their arrest and were never subjected to Immigration Review. With the advent of Bail Reform, these immigrants are now going to the County Jails and are automatically being scrutinized by Immigration Officials.
All individuals who are arrested and charged with a “Warrant” complaint are transferred to the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny, where they are subjected to a mandatory review by Immigration Officers and if they cannot substantiate that they are in the United States legally they are instantly subjected to Immigration Detention and Deportation.
Municipalities have the option of charging minor offenders with “Summons” complaints. A summons complaint allows the individual to be released immediately on their own recognizance on the promise that they appear in court later.
The current Bail Reform system has eliminated bail altogether. As such, 95% of individuals charged with felonies are being released on their own recognizance and a promise to return to court. Accordingly, subjecting people with minor offenses to a “Warrant” Complaint rather than a “Summons” complaint makes little procedural difference. However, the difference between a Warrant and a Summons complaint makes all the difference to an undocumented individual. Municipalities should object to being pawns in the President’s political campaign against undocumented people. Our police force and our jails were not designed to become deportation hubs for the Federal Government.
I am urging that our local politicians make policies together with their local police departments to issue more “Summonses” rather than “Warrant” complaints. Minor drug offenses, minor disturbances, and standard quality of life crimes should be charged as Summonses and not as Warrants. Our immigrant community needs to feel safe to report crime and not to fear persecution when they are accused of relatively minor crimes. A person should not be deported because they made a mistake. An entire family and community should not suffer for a minor mistake that would most likely result in a slap on the wrist and a fine.
Our communities need to provide real sanctuary and not just say the words.
Mario M. Blanch, Esq.