WASHINGTON — Mike Burrows, who has been in the United States legally since 1962, could be detained by immigration officials at any moment. The 51-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles, was ordered for deportation in 2003, making him one of many immigrants to enter a pathway of rigidly-structured immigration laws and processes that can force deportation for even longtime lawful immigrants.
As the Obama administration steps up immigration enforcement, immigrant rights groups say situations like Burrows’ are far from rare. Unlike in criminal convictions, non-citizens facing immigration charges have no right to an attorney and can face double jeopardy. A person born in the United States convicted of a minor crime often pays a fine or performs community service. For those born elsewhere, the same offense can lead to a life turned upside down.
“I don’t think there’s this guy in Washington who is picking on me, but this is how the machine works,” Burrows told HuffPost. “This is the way the machine would treat — and does treat — anybody in my situation.”