Prosecutors challenge Barr’s bid to change immigration rules

Colleen Long
Associated Press

Washington – More than 40 elected state and local prosecutors on Friday challenged Attorney General William Barr’s bid to give himself more authority in deciding whether to deport immigrants with criminal convictions.

Barr wants to change immigration rules that defer to state and local decisions on criminal cases that may affect whether an immigrant is deported. It’s one of several efforts Barr is making to gain greater authority in deportation cases.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez says it’s important that authority reside with state and local elected prosecutors because they are in the best position to determine the criminal history of someone under their jurisdiction.

In this July 23, 2019 file photo U.S. Attorney General William Barr addresses the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York. Immigrants who fear persecution because of their family ties will no longer be eligible for asylum under a new rule issued by Barr. Barr on Monday, July 29, announced he was no longer allowing members of a family to be considered a "social group" if their lives are threatened simply because they're related to someone.

His office, for example, has a unit dedicated to reexamining convictions, an effort that began following reports that a now-retired detective may have falsified information in criminal cases decades ago, but has since expanded. The unit has overturned more than 20 convictions, including that of a green card holder convicted of burglary whose case was overturned because the crime never occurred – and he could have faced deportation because of the conviction.

“Justice requires careful consideration of the facts of each case,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “This type of evaluation is best done at the local level with a consideration of community needs.”

Gonzalez and the other prosecutors filed a brief with the Justice Department Friday. They include attorneys general from seven states, including Minnesota, Washington, Delaware and Nevada, and in 36 urban and rural jurisdictions around the country including counties in Georgia, Maryland, Wisconsin, Texas, Kansas and California.