ICE Goes Easy On Human Smugglers, Cracks Down On Smuggled Humans

The Kansas City Star published a big investigative piece today about yet another fun wrinkle in ICE's endlessly creative fuckery toward immigration cases. You know how the Trump administration has been talking about Getting Tough on the Bad Hombres who make illegal immigration possible, the human smugglers who help migrants evade the Border Patrol and ICE? Turns out there's a ridiculously common practice in prosecutions of those particular human traffickers (or "coyotes" with the three-syllable Spanish pronunciation to sound super knowledgeable about border issues): to speed court cases along, the smugglers often get very light sentences, while the people they smuggle can spend years in detention, even after agreeing to testify against the smugglers.

Oh, sure, it gets worse: those migrants who agree to cooperate can end up being deported anyway, and marked for death by cartels because they snitched. Just checking: does this make us Great Again? By whose definition?

The Star's story focuses on Maria Garcia-Mata, an undocumented woman with family in the US who was arrested in her second illegal crossing of the border three years ago. She volunteered to testify against the American citizen with whom she was arrested, who had been paid by a gang to pick her up on this side of the US border. You might think that would make her one of those "cooperating witnesses" who gets a plea deal, but this is the US immigration system, so fuckery and bad faith abound. The smuggler, Salvador Suchilt, was initially charged with a felony, but bargained down to a misdemeanor, was sentenced to 30 days (most of it time served), and released with no probation. Garcia-Mata has been in ICE custody ever since, and now faces deportation.

The gang she paid to smuggle her into the US took her cell phone before she got out of Mexico, and has used her contacts list to call her relatives and leave threats about what will happen to them. Same goes for lots of migrants, while their smugglers often end up getting bounced because it's too much trouble to prosecute them. Think of it as "Catch and Release," only for people working with cartels.

This "flip-flop" tactic is all actually fairly common, according to immigration attorneys, and data kept by Syracuse University shows that while lots of smugglers get charged with felonies, those charges are often dropped, not proven in court, or simply reduced to misdemeanors as a way of clearing through a huge backlog of immigration cases. Jeff Sessions promised to Git Tuff on traffickers, but while many more people have been charged with smuggling-related felonies, the felony conviction rate has actually dropped in the past year, while more and more people get deported for being in the country for not having papers.

A cynic might almost think ICE was going after the easiest targets and ignoring the more serious crimes because, ugh, that's so much more work.

The report also notes that a lot of people charged with "human trafficking" are, unlike Suchilt, not working with gangs:

Tens of thousands of misdemeanor cases are brought annually against persons not linked to professional smuggling rings. They include the relatives and friends of migrants who cross the border, and about 95 percent plead guilty.

Do US immigration officials distinguish between people helping family members and professional coyotes? Haha, we ask silly questions. We're just guessing here, but we'd imagine the mobbed-up criminals have better lawyers anyway, although in Suchilt's case, he was a low-level cog, too, a guy paid a few hundred dollars to pick her up along a highway in Arizona.

Now that she and her family are being targeted by the gang, Garcia-Mata and her attorney have applied for asylum, because the gang has texted her relatives with cryptic messages that are fairly clear threats, saying they'd like to ask her a few questions after she gets out, hint-hint. Maybe her asylum claim can get past Jeff Sessions's new directive that people can't request asylum when it's just private bad guys targeting them for death. Immigration attorney Dree Collopy, who doesn't represent Garcia-Mata, told the KC Star cases like Garcia-Mata's merely involve terribly long odds, but aren't impossible:

"If it's private actors you fear, you have to prove that the government is unable or unwilling to control them," Collopy said. "And that would apply a lot of times to Mexico, given the government corruption."

She said Garcia-Mata's case for asylum "certainly makes sense and, to me, is a reasonable claim."

Then again, Ms. Collopy sounds like a reasonable attorney, and America deported "reasonable" a long, long time ago.

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[Kansas City Starvia Alert Wonkette Operative "CM"]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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