The Sacramento Bee is reporting this week that a woman was arrested and detained for twelve days for refusing to leave a Wal-Mart parking lot where she was selling inexpensive tamales. Complicating the case is that 46-year-old Juana Reyes is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who came to this country over 16 years ago and now has two U.S. citizen children. During her time in jail she was interviewed by an officer from Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) through the federal Criminal Alien Program (CAP), which ultimately led to ICE bringing deportation charges against the woman.
In the aftermath of this incident, Ms. Reyes’ case is being publicized as evidence of the overreach of federal immigration enforcement policy. Advocates for more generous immigration policies argue that CAP and other related programs like Secure Communities reach too far into the criminal justice system in order to ensnare immigrants detained on minor charges. Advocates are pushing for legislation and policy changes that would prevent some of these programs from applying to individuals arrested on minor crimes if they have no other criminal history. Ms. Reyes had no prior criminal history but her case will still be an uphill battle to avoid deportation.
A year ago the Obama Administration announced new policy guidelines aimed at focusing immigration enforcement resources on high-priority offenders such as violent criminals and repeat immigration violators. Critics charge that these policies have not become a reality despite what is written in memos and discussed in speeches. Although the Obama administration has argued for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) that would address the nation’s ten to twelve million undocumented immigrants, it has also overseen a massive increase in deportations.