Judicial Watch • Tattoos Save Convict From Deportation

Tattoos Save Convict From Deportation

Tattoos Save Convict From Deportation

FEBRUARY 08, 2010

A convicted felon cannot be deported because tattooed criminals like him are often harassed by gangs and police in his native El Salvador, according to a federal appellate court that overruled both an immigration judge and the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals.

The preposterous ruling was issued a few days ago by the abhorrently liberal and frequently overturned 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The case involves a violent multiple offender from El Salvador (Gregory Aguilar-Ramos) who has been convicted in the United States of serious crimes, including robbery and theft with priors. 

As a child the felon became a U.S. resident but, under federal law, his felony convictions require he be deported. In 2005 the Department of Homeland Security began the process, citing his conviction of an aggravated felony and two violent crimes of moral turpitude. A year later Aguilar-Ramos sought asylum, claiming that he feared gangs and police in El Salvador would target him because of his “multiple tattoos” and “status as a deportee from the United States.” 

An immigration judge denied the petition, citing the criminal’s failure to prove that he faced torture in his native country. The Board of Immigration Appeals, the nation’s highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws, agreed with the decision and Aguilar-Ramos appealed to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit. The case was argued in the southern California city of Pasadena a few months ago.

The sympathetic three-judge panel based its decision largely on the testimony of an “expert” who monitors gangs and police in El Salvador. He testified that deportees like Aguilar face years in jail, death or serious injury in prison as well as harassment by police or military patrols. In some cases, they face “death squads” that operate with the awareness of the government,” according to the 10-page ruling

Before deporting Aguilar to El Salvador immigration officials must seriously consider that police and gangs in the tiny Central American nation harass, persecute and kill tattooed criminal deportees like him, the decision says. 

These sorts of outrageous rulings are par for the course for the western appeals court, the largest of the nation’s 13 appellate courts. The 9th Circuit is best known for getting overturned by the Supreme Court more than any other. This term alone, the High Court reversed 94% of its rulings in cases involving issues such as civil rights, prisoners’ rights and environmental protection. 

Last year the 9th Circuit Court’s chief justice, Alex Kozinski, was embroiled in an embarrassing scandal for operating a publicly accessible website containing sexually explicit and offensive images. The judge’s salacious website became an issue in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker that he presided over.

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