Immigrants Get Deported for Far Less Than Justin Bieber Did

Canadian pop star sensation Justin Bieber was arrested late Wednesday night on charges of drag racing in a rented Lamborghini and driving under the influence (DUI) in Miami, Florida. At the time that he failed his sobriety test, Bieber was “incoherent, had his hands in his pocket and resisted arrest without violence,” said Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez in an interview with the Miami Herald. Bieber also told Martinez that he had smoked marijuana and consumed prescription medication, according to CNN.

The latest arrest adds to the rap sheet of a star who, because he is not a U.S. citizen, may find himself facing not just jail time but immigration trouble if he sees criminal convictions.

Legal immigrants like Bieber can be subject to deportation for a variety of reasons, including marijuana possession and felonies, as when Bieber allegedly egged his neighbor’s mansion. While Bieber may avert deportation even if he is convicted, thanks to his celebrity status and expensive lawyers, many other low-level, non-violent immigrant offenders (or even those with similar charges) do in fact wind up in deportation proceedings.

About 10 percent of all deportees are legal immigrants, and the majority of them (68 percent) commit minor, non-violent crimes. Roselva Chaidez, a legal immigrant, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud, but denied that she had been convicted of a crime when she later applied for naturalization. She was then placed in deportation proceedings. Roland Sylvain, a lawful permanent resident married to a U.S. citizen, was pulled over in Virginia for speeding. Because his license was suspended, he signed his cousin’s name on the ticket, then immediately confessed to the officer. According to The Atlantic, Sylvain was charged with anaggravated felony for “forging public records and handed two suspended prison sentences.” He was also put into deportation proceedings.

Those immigrants who are undocumented are frequently deported for far less. Alex Timofeev is now in deportation proceedings for pleading guilty to smoking marijuana 15 years ago. Police stopped Octavio for running a stop sign two blocks from his home. They arrested him after finding out that he had been driving without a license. Three weeks later, immigration agents detained him and Octavio was deported to Mexico. A police officer also stopped Noe Parra Manrique, a single father with strong family ties in America, for a missing license plate screw. Manrique was arrested for driving without a license (despite not being able to qualify for one in Maryland because of his immigration status) and put into deportation proceedings. He is still awaiting a final court hearing in March.

Just in the 2011 fiscal year alone, 14,331 legal and undocumented immigrants were deported for a traffic violation category that includes “speeding, reckless driving, driving without a taillight, and driving without a license.” And a September 2013 report found that undocumented immigrants with a traffic offense are “more likely to be booked into ICE detention than one with a homicide, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault offense.” The same report found that 75.4 percent of 12,757 immigrants charged with DUI in 2012 were booked into ICE detention. As a comparison, nearly 76 percent of immigrant traffic offenders booked for ICE detention, including those who are charged with reckless driving (like drag racing), are more likely to face deportation than violent offenders. By the end of the 2013 fiscal year, 151,835 immigrants without criminal convictions, like those convicted of drunk driving, marijuana possession, or other minor traffic violations, were deported.

Unlike Bieber who will most likely lawyer up if he does ever face an immigration judge, one Harvard report found that 84 percent of immigrants represent themselves in court. The number of immigrants in similar cases continue to be indicative of how low-level traffic offenders have become the likely subject of deportation.


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