Unintended Consequences As Virginia Court Excuses Pot, But Ensnares Immigrants

Washington Post article, 3/10/17

Photo Credit: Washington Post article, 3/10/17

The Washington Post has a story illustrating how shifting legal landscapes can impact immigration practices. The paper reports that “… the Arlington General District Court this month imposed the new policy for handling many misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, a change the top prosecutor said would make the court process quicker and less stressful for first-time offenders. But the county’s public defender and immigration advocates are objecting because the shift also means that poor defendants in those cases will no longer get a free lawyer to help them understand — and perhaps fight — the charge.”

Because immigration issues are considered civil, not criminal, defendants do not have assurances of legal representation. Now, because “jail” is not looming they will not get legal representation – if they take the easy way out, just plead guilty, they may find themselves later banned from the country, even if they are here legally.

It’s a great example of how the legal system can confuse the issues:

Get caught with pot, don’t go to jail: Why not everyone is happy

Now Nepotism Is Immigration Court Issue

It turns out that the under-staffed immigration courts still found time to hire family members of officials, sometimes in apparent violation of federal law, according to various reports. Says the Washington Post, “… the Federal investigators found rampant nepotism in recent years within the agency that oversees U.S. immigration courts, including three top officials who used their positions to help relatives land paid internships.
Adds WaPo in one of its federal government blogs: “In a report this week, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said about 16 percent of the interns hired between 2007 and 2012 for the Executive Office of Immigration Review’s Student Temporary Employment Program were family members of employees.”

New WaPo Series Hits Immigration Issue

A new Washington Post newspaper series, “Storyline,” has come out swinging on the ethnic pressures behind how non-Hispanic white Americans feel about immigration. Even the paper’s sub-headline notes that “it’s not pretty.” The series, which hopes to use polling data to explain how policy affects public opinion “… and the other way around,” gets deeply into the race card.
Reports the WaPo: “Whites who read a negative story featuring an Hispanic immigrant had a strong political reaction. In addition to higher opposition to immigration, they became more supportive of an ‘English-only’ law, asked for more information about the issue and were more apt to send an e-mail  to their congressional representative advocating reduced immigration levels when asked in the survey… Negative news about a Russian immigrant had little impact on political motivation.”