Thousands of families in the United States have been torn apart in recent years by detention and deportation for drug offenses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday. Disproportionately harsh laws and policies relating to drug offenses can lead to deportation for lawful permanent residents and unauthorized immigrants alike.
The 93-page report, “A Price Too High: US Families Torn Apart by Deportations for Drug Offenses,” documents how the United States regularly places legal residents and other immigrants with strong ties to American families into deportation proceedings for drug offenses. Often, those offenses are decades old or so minor they resulted in little or no prison time.
Deportations after convictions for drug possession in particular have spiked, increasing 43 percent from 2007 to 2012, according to U.S. government data obtained by Human Rights Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Even as many U.S. states are legalizing and decriminalizing some drugs, or reducing sentences for drug offenses, federal immigration policy too often imposes exile for the same offenses,” said Grace Meng, senior U.S. researcher at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report. “Americans believe the punishment should fit the crime, but that is not what is happening to immigrants convicted of what are often relatively minor drug offenses.”