As the Trump administration continues its crackdown on illegal immigration, some prosecutors are looking at ways to avoid prosecuting immigrants when a minor crime might lead to their deportation, NPR reports. Eric Gonzalez is the acting district attorney in Brooklyn and the state’s first Hispanic district attorney. About one-third of the New York City borough’s residents are immigrants. Gonzalez believes non-citizens can face a sort of double jeopardy, getting deported years after serving their sentences on criminal charges. He has instructed his staff of about 500 prosecutors to consider a defendant’s immigration status when negotiating plea deals for minor nonviolent offenses.
Baltimore prosecutors recently received similar instructions. They were told to consider the collateral consequences of prosecuting immigrants for minor crimes. In California, a state law goes even further. It instructs prosecutors to consider the immigration status of defendants in plea negotiations regardless of whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has blasted local officials who don’t prosecute immigrants to the fullest extent possible. He said, “It troubles me that we’ve seen district attorneys openly brag about not charging cases appropriately under the laws of our country, so that provides an opportunity for individuals not to be convicted of a crime that might lead to deportation.” The prosecutors who want to show leniency say that doesn’t mean they aren’t tough on crime. Gonzalez says Brooklyn prosecutors are still seeking similar sentences even though they are agreeing to lesser charges.