I earlier blogged about the idea of enforcing the Proclamation’s statement that children are entitled to be raised in a two-parent household. That post generated a number of interesting comments. Also in that post, I promised a follow up about some specific ideas for putting the Proclamation’s entitlement into action. I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your collective seat, wondering about these specifics. Turn with me, then, back through the pages of history — to 2001, when Kaimi was a mere law clerk.
One of my proudest moments as a law clerk came when I worked on Beharry v. Reno. That case involved a legal immigrant who stole $700 from a coffee shop. For this robbery, he was given a prison sentence of about two years in a State prison. Following his prison sentence, he was hauled into Federal immigration court to be deported. Under a provision of the immigration laws, a legal permanent resident who is given a prison sentence of over a year is more-or-less automatically deportable. This sort of automatic deportation is routine and happens thousands of times every year.
The defendant’s case came to Federal court through a habeas corpus petition. Early on, his case was taken up by very able amici from the Center for Constitutional Rights. The CCR brief relied on statutes, case law, and international law. It noted, among other things, that the petitioner had a six-year-old, U.S. Citizen daughter.
In an opinion which I consider one of the most creative and courageous immigration opinions of recent years, my employer, the District Judge, held that the INS could not deport that petitioner without first holding a hearing to consider the effect such a deportation would have on his family, and specifically on his minor daughter.
The decision was based on a novel reading of international law, applying portions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as applicable customary international law. It created quite a stir in immigration law circles, and was even discussed in some newspapers. Several months later, the decision was overturned on a technicality by an appeals court (the appellate court found that the petitioner’s habeas petition was improperly filed under the complicated “exhaustion” requirements of habeas law).
I continue to think that Beharry v. Reno was correctly decided at the District level. I think this for a number of reasons: I think that it was a good analysis of international law; I think that its logic makes sense. And I think that the decision was exactly right to say that routine deportation of parents, without any regard to their family situation, is a bad idea. As such, though the opinion has no explicit or even implicit Mormon references, I think that it is a strongly Mormon opinion — perhaps because I carried a Mormon worldview as I worked on it. I felt — and still feel — deeply offended at the government’s nonchalant willingness to tear apart families of legal immigrants.
Such deportations occur routinely. And that sort of across-the-board disregard for family integrity is something that should make Mormons rise up in protest. The application of such law flies in the face of the entitlement — yes, the entitlement — of Mr. Beharry’s child to be reared by a father and a mother in the home. It is a legal monstrosity that is contrary to God’s law, as stated by living prophets. And we should not rest until such evil laws are off of the books.