Tara Ammons Cohen, an American mother of three, was, after more than two years behind bars, released from immigration detention on August 5, 2011. Thirty-nine-year-old Cohen had been held in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA, since July 2009. She still faces deportation charges even after her extended detention.
Cohen was born in Mexico and was adopted by an American couple at five months old, along with her brother and sister. Her adoptive parents never sought her naturalization, nor did Cohen apply when she became an adult. Later in life, when Cohen had made attempts at naturalization through marriage, she had a run-in with the law in a drug-related case. This is when she became aware of her "illegal" status and found out that this charge could lead to her deportation. After her sentence was carried out, she was taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and faced a deportation proceeding. She would end up being detained for thirty-one months.
It is exciting for Cohen and her entire family that she has been released from detainment. However, due to her drug-related charges, she still is being threatened with deportation. This would leave her family behind and send her back to a country where she does not know the language or culture nor have any known friends or relatives. In an interview, Cohen stated, "I'm an American... It may not say so with me not having a green card, but I was adopted by Americans. I'm an American."
This case is just one of the tens of thousands that undocumented immigrants in the United States face every year. However, since 2008, the Secure Communities program (S-COMM), has further marginalized the undocumented population. The program, which, it was recently announced, is mandatory for state and local governments, makes it so that local law enforcement agents can ask about the immigration status of anyone they arrest—before they ever see a judge or jury or are even charged. If the person is found to be undocumented, there is a large chance that they will be deported, regardless of whether they committed any crime. S-COMM was, the government claims, intended to deport only violent criminals who are undocumented. However, this is what the program has turned into:
During the Obama administration, more than 77,000 immigrants convicted of crimes, including some 28,000 convicted of offenses such as murder, rape and sexual abuse of children, were deported after they were identified through S-Comm. That sounds like a lot. Until you realize that Obama has deported a record-breaking 1 million people during his administration. By DHS’s own numbers, that leaves 895,000 people deported who were not convicted of crimes. That doesn’t sound like a highly successful program unless you have a mass-deportation agenda.
It is unsettling how often people are sent back to countries where they were born, even though they identify as Americans. S-COMM has legitimized the extended detention and eventual deportation of thousands of undocumented residents of the United States regardless of their personal stories, the hardship deportation would cause to their families, or any other factors. Cohen's story is just one of many that illustrate how current immigration enforcement programs are eroding civil liberties and constitutional rights for millions in the United States.