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Anti-Immigration Senators Would Prohibit Re-Entrants Without Criminal Records

By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee  

"Anti-Immigration Senators Would Prohibit Re-Entrants Without Criminal Records"

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Hours before Rene Rivas was set to be sent back to Mexico, his 18-year-old son Carlos made a plea at a townhall meeting with Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) to halt Rene Rivas’ 4 A.M. deportation. After making a personal call to the ICE agent in charge of Rivas’ case, Rep. Wilson was successful in stopping the deportation, but Rivas remains incarcerated in ICE legal limbo.

Because illegal re-entry is a felony, Rivas can be held in prison for up to two years even though he does not have prior convictions. Rivas had once before voluntarily left after being captured by ICE officials in a raid targeted at his coworker who has a criminal record.

Under the Senate immigration bill, Rene Rivas would qualify for registered provisional immigration (RPI) status, even though he violated federal law for reentering back into the U.S. Both Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have created amendments that will prohibit deportees from being considered for RPI status.

A study released in March shows that one of the top immigration offenses was “reentry of deported alien.” While in the past, illegal re-entry had been used to describe violent criminals, the uptick in deportations shows immigrants with lesser offenses being given such labels. If passed under the Title II provision at the Senate markup hearing, this would impact numerous deported immigrants, some of whom had been deported for misdemeanors like marijuana possession. The Senate bill would not automatically grant deportees the right to return, but it would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to have discretion in granting waivers.

Update

The article has been corrected to reflect Mr. Rivas’s first name as Rene, not Rena.

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