ICE said Tamayo is ineligible for Obama’s program because of the felony conviction. “Ms. Tamayo’s criminal history makes her ineligible for discretion under the agency’s current guidelines,” said Amber Cargile, an ICE spokeswoman in Arizona.
Sheriff Arpaio, who has come under fire for allegedly discriminating against Latinos, stressed that identity theft is a serious crime that can damage the victim’s reputation for years. But, in Tamayo’s case, there is no record that she harmed anyone. She was not ordered to pay restitution to the Social Security number’s real owner.
Nonetheless, Tamayo’s immigration lawyer said, there’s a good chance she’ll be jailed again or deported, though she is free on bail now.
“I’m so discouraged, having seen this going on for so long, having seen so many good people be deported because the law is so harsh,” Suzannah Maclay said from Phoenix. “It wasn’t her choice to come here.”
Trying to follow the law
Elmaati Hachani of Westborough, 48, did what the US government asked him to do — and got arrested for it.
The native of Morocco had stayed here illegally after his visa expired in 1996, but after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he willingly stood in line at the John F. Kennedy federal building in Boston for a controversial new program that required foreigners from certain Arab and Muslim nations to register with immigration officials. Not since World War II, when the United States detained families of German, Japanese, and Italian descent, had the government specifically targeted people like this.
Hachani’s friends, also here illegally, called the program a witch hunt and did not register, but Hachani hoped that signing up in 2003 would help his effort to stay.
“I was one of the people who went there, obeyed the law . . . and registered themselves,” he said recently.
But by admitting that he was here illegally, Hachani had unwittingly set himself up to be deported. Immigration officials told Hachani to call a toll-free number to find out when his deportation hearing would take place. For years, Hachani called every month, but no hearing was scheduled.
Finally, Hachani stopped calling around 2009 and moved from Revere to Westborough, where he runs his own cleaning company. In a crucial misstep, he failed to notify immigration agents of his new address.
When immigration officials finally notified him that there would be a deportation hearing, they sent the letter to his old address, and Hachani never saw it. The hearing happened anyway and he was ordered deported in January 2011, making Hachani a fugitive. Immigration agents found him at his new home within weeks.
In March 2011, eight years after Hachani told US officials he had overstayed his visa, plainclothes immigration agents descended on him as he got into his car for work and slapped him in handcuffs. Then they knocked on the door, handed his terrified, pregnant wife a citation, and told her Hachani was going to jail.
The next month, the Obama administration announced it was discontinuing the special-registration program because it was little help in detaining terrorists.
By then, Hachani was in jail. He said he spent 65 days in Plymouth County House of Correction, which holds ICE detainees, until he was released on bail to fight for a new deportation hearing.
After inquiries from the Globe, immigration officials last week offered to drop the case against Hachani and his wife, said Jeffrey Rubin, his Boston lawyer.
“He’s overwhelmed with joy and relief,” Rubin said. “It’s the culmination of a long road filled with anxiety and despair and trauma.”
Immigration officials say they are trying to make their system more humane, improving health care and offering more recreational opportunities in detention, while allowing more immigrants to remain free while they await their deportation hearings.
But critics say the the system has grown so big and sprawling that no central authority really controls it, despite court rulings and presidential initiatives.
“You can have all these plans coming from the leadership, but if it does not turn into serious change on the ground, then we have a problem,” said Andrea Black, executive director of the advocacy group Detention Watch Network.“The people actually in detention are suffering as much as ever.”
Similarly, immigration officials take pride in having reduced the average detention for immigrants from 40 days to 26 since 2001, the year that the Supreme Court ruled that foreigners with final deportation orders in general should not be imprisoned longer than six months. That ruling, in a case called Zadvydas v. Davis, and a second ruling in 2005 have spurred immigration officials to release 8,500 criminal noncitizens who have been in the United States since 2008 because their home countries did not agree to take them back.Continued...