Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is pushing back against a new Trump Administration policy that would give federal authorities the ability to deport immigrants for past convictions — even after a state judge has vacated them.
Gonzalez joined 42 other state and district prosecutors from across the country in signing a legal brief urging U.S. Attorney General William Barr to refrain from giving federal immigration courts the power to use state convictions to deport non-citizens, despite subsequent rulings that vacate those convictions as a result of due process violations, or the discovery of new, or defective evidence.
As an example, Barr’s new rule would allow immigration courts to deport green card holder Michael Waithe on his 1987 burglary conviction, while ignoring the fact that an investigation by former Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson’s conviction review unit exonerated him after discovering his alleged crime never actually occurred, Gonzalez said.
“It would have been absurd for the federal government to ignore this post-conviction finding and deport the man anyway and would be equally unjust to ignore countless other discretionary decisions regarding old convictions and sentences made in state courts,” Gonzalez said.
And in his enthusiasm to deport immigrants, Barr has proven willing to tread on states’ rights, haphazardly upholding the sovereignty of local courts in applying convictions, while ignoring their authority to later dismiss them, according to a legal justice watchdog.
“Any change to decades of immigration procedures and precedent would unduly limit the discretion of elected prosecutors and infringe on state and local rights,” said Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution.
Kings County is home to nearly 1 million immigrants, about 300,000 of whom are non-citizens, according to a 2018 report by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.