Attorney Ahiran Allanantham, who wrote briefs supporting illegal entry and re-entry challenges, represented immigrants facing re-entry charges when he was a federal defender in the border city of El Paso, Texas. served a person. Most of them were people who had lived in the United States for years, had families, were convicted and deported. Some tried to live in Juarez, Mexico, across the street from El Paso, but returned to the United States because they could not bear being separated from their families.
But if they do come back and encounter Border Patrol and other law enforcement officers who learned they had been previously deported, there would be serious problems, says the now co-director of the Center for Immigration Law Policy at UCLA School of Law. Al-Ranantham, who serves as The Center has helped lead public awareness campaigns on illegal re-entry.
“They sometimes spent years in prison,” he says. “The impact of coming back to see family will last for years.”
Efrain Leonides-Segria, a 46-year-old Mexican man, is one of thousands of illegal immigrants who have been prosecuted for illegal entry. Leonides-Segria said he came to the United States chasing the “American Dream” he heard about growing up in Guerrero. In 1997, Leonides-Segria crossed the Arizona border and began planting roots.
“I wanted to see for myself if it was true,” Leonides-Segria told BuzzFeed News. “But over time, you realize that while living here is certainly a little more comfortable, it’s also more stressful.”
In the years that followed, Leonides-Segria had four daughters, a son and a granddaughter. He earned his living by working in a paper mill outside Chicago, and practiced martial arts for several years, starting in Mexico. He was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol until he was deported in December 2009, according to court records. This was the first of five times he’s been deported, another after being convicted of DUI and once after being caught by Border Patrol.
Leonides-Segria was also convicted of serious misuse of weapons in October 2001 and sentenced to 18 months of probation, according to court records. In May 2021, he was found guilty of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and violating electronic surveillance. He was sentenced to three years and three months in prison.
He was twice convicted of illegal re-entry and sentenced to 10 months in prison each time, according to court records. However, immigrants convicted of illegal re-entry can face prison terms of up to two years and up to 20 years, depending on their criminal record.
Leonides Segria said he didn’t know he could be charged with re-entry until he was arrested trying to enter the United States after his initial deportation. However, despite his imprisonment, he continued to try his luck to get home each time he was deported, as his children claimed they needed him. His son and daughter were still in elementary school when he was first deported.
“They really needed me,” he said. “I wanted to give them a regular life. Not a bad life, not a great life. I wanted to give them a normal, regular life.”
He didn’t expect to spend so much time in prison. So did the men who were detained together.
“You lose a lot of time when you’re trapped,” says Leonides-Segria. “It’s not worth it.”
In September, a federal judge in Illinois ruled that the Justice Department had fulfilled its responsibility to show that the 1929 Act would pass regardless of racial prejudice, ending the latest illegal reentry charges. Attempts to have it withdrawn failed.
If federal pro-federates win in the Ninth Circuit, the government will be unable to prosecute immigrants who enter the United States without a permit in areas under its jurisdiction. But that doesn’t stop the deportation. And if that happens, the Justice Department will almost certainly appeal to the Supreme Court.
Studies have shown that punishing immigrants for entering the country without permission does little to deter immigration attempts and only encourages them to choose more risky routes to enter the United States. increase.
Joanna Williams, executive director of the Keno Border Initiative, a nonprofit based on both sides of the Arizona border, said she wanted to leave the desert because she wanted to reunite with children of U.S. citizens despite the dangers. More and more immigrants are trying to cross, he said.
Under the Trump administration’s pandemic policies, the vast majority of immigrants and asylum seekers are quickly deported to Mexico or their home countries, so these parents are likely not to face criminal charges, but entry into the United States is nearly impossible. will surely be blocked. If caught, Mr. Williams said.
And even though immigrants know they can end up in federal prison if they cross the border, they still consider the risk of being separated from their children, she added.
“How do you weigh being separated from your children for life versus going to jail?” ●