Pleading guilty to a crime can mean “a life sentence of deportation” for some immigrants. As a result, prosecutors are considering the stakes for some defendants–contrary to their profession’s bedrock notion that justice is supposed to be blind to the identity of an accused criminal.
Now that President Trump’s hard line has made deportation a keener threat, a growing number of district attorneys are concluding that prosecutors should consider potential repercussions for immigrants before closing a plea deal, reports the New York Times. At the same time, cities and states are reshaping how the criminal justice system treats immigrants, hoping to hopscotch around unintended immigration pitfalls. These shifts may inaugurate yet another local-versus-federal conflict with the Trump administration, which is already tussling with many liberal cities over other protections for immigrants. For prosecutors, such policies are also stretching the bounds of a profession that has adhered to the idea that justice is supposed to be blind to the identity of a defendant.
“More and more, my eyes are open that treating people the same means that there isn’t a life sentence of deportation that might accompany that conviction,” said Dan Satterberg, the prosecuting attorney for Seattle and a longtime Republican, who instituted an immigration-consequences policy last year and strengthened it after the presidential election. But many prosecutors remain hesitant to meddle in what they regard as the federal government’s business. “There’s probably hundreds if not thousands of issues that I suppose we could take into consideration,” said Brian McIntyre, the county attorney in Cochise County, Ariz., “and when we do that, we necessarily wind up not being as fair to someone else.”