Federal immigration judges in New York this year rejected 70 percent of deportation requests filed by immigration enforcement agents, continuing a trend that's grown markedly in the past six years, according to an analysis of government data released Tuesday.
The case-by-case study of the data showed similar rejection rates in fiscal year 2010 for other large immigrant cities, such as Los Angeles (63 percent) and Miami (59 percent) - numbers that vastly exceed the national figures of 31 percent.
David Leopold, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the results showed New York judges were doing their jobs, assuring immigrants' rights were protected.
According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), an affiliate of Syracuse University that regularly compiles, analyzes and releases a broad range of federal law enforcement information, the high rates of rejection of deportation requests by immigration judges raise questions about the effectiveness of the way the Immigration and Customs Enforcement does its job.
"The poor targeting of government removal [deportation] efforts documented by the Immigration Court data shows that scarce resources, such as the investigative time of ICE agents, are being wasted and that the ability of the government to deport those who should be removed . . . therefore has been reduced," TRAC co-directors David Burnham and Sue Long said.
In a statement Tuesday night, ICE criticized TRAC's analysis, saying it "fails to take into account many factors," including that immigration courts "are independently authorized to allow illegal aliens to remain in the United States." The bureau added that in 2010, ICE has deported more than 195,000 convicted criminals - a record number.
The percentage of deportation orders denied in New York federal immigration court actions has steadily trended upward for more than a decade - in 2005, for example, 55 percent of deportation orders were denied.
Long said most cases in which ICE sought deportation involved people who were caught overstaying their visas or not legally in the United States.
The government data, said Long, showed immigration judges turned down government requests for deportation orders because either the immigrant had a basis to stay in the United States, such as an asylum application, or the government failed to prove any reason for deportation.
Mitchell Zwaik, an immigration attorney from Bohemia, said immigrants sometimes are never served with deportation orders and only learn years later they have troubles when confronted by ICE officers.