new white house immigration policy does not protect civil disobedient with a prior conviction

by Tim Phillips

President Obama announced three weeks ago that his administration would stop deporting some undocumented immigrants who were under 16 when they came to the U.S. The memorandum setting forth the policy, however, includes several criteria that “should be satisfied before an individual is considered” for a two-year reprieve from deportation. Most important for activists is the criterion that the immigrant

has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses [no] threat to national security or public safety.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used that provision earlier this week to reject Uriel Alberto’s request to stay in the U.S. following his arrest for civil disobedience. Alberto, who was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. at age 7, landed in jail on February 29 after disrupting a meeting of the North Carolina House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy. His immigration attorney suspects that ICE declined his request to stay in the U.S. based a prior ‘significant’ misdemeanor offense of registering a 0.04 percent blood alcohol content when he was under 21. North Carolina’s limit is 0.08 percent.

Alberto is a member of El Cambio, an immigrant rights organization. His son is a U.S. citizen. While Obama’s new immigration policy is a step in the right direction, the broad criterion above counteracts any guarantee of meaningful change for undocumented immigrants with prior convictions, or who allegedly pose a threat to national security (e.g., due to their political activities).