U.S. Immigration Officials: Pot Smokers Get Out; Rapists You Can Stay

A new report suggests that a suspected undocumented immigrant convicted of possessing pot may be more likely to face immigration detention than one who’s been convicted of rape.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the federal Department of Homeland Security, states that it “prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, those who post a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators.” President Obama’s then-director of intergovernmental affairs, Celia Muñoz, wrote in a 2011 blog post that DHS had “prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States,” consistent with “a strategy to make sure we use those resources in a way that puts public safety and national security first.”

But public safety and national security are in the eye of the beholder.

Authors of a new report from the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a San Francisco nonprofit that seeks to reduce incarceration, reviewed data on requests by ICE to law enforcement agencies to detain adult suspected undocumented immigrants. “According to these data,” wrote authors Mike Males and Selena Teji, “an undocumented foreign national with a traffic offense is more likely to be booked into ICE detention than one with a homicide, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault offense.” The authors also found that “a suspected undocumented immigrant with a prior or contemporaneous conviction for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana – which is no longer even a crime in California – is more likely to face ICE detention (73.1 percent) than one with a rape conviction (69.7 percent).”

The data, for a period running from late 2009 to early 2013, were obtained through a lawsuit; CJCJ noted that it limited its statistical assessment to 77,923 cases in which officers had recorded how the request was resolved and filled out a non-mandatory “Most Serious Criminal Charge” field.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.