Current Issue

Volume 90, Number 2

May 2015

Immigration Reliance on Gang Databases

Rebecca A. Hufstader

Unchecked Discretion and Undesirable Consequences

The Obama Administration has historically expanded the availability of deferred action, which provides a reprieve from the threat of deportation and work authorization to certain undocumented immigrants, through the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). These programs, as well as legislative efforts to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, increasingly seek to exclude suspected gang members. In doing so, they make gang databases managed by state and local law enforcement increasingly relevant to eligibility decisions. These databases, however, lack the procedural safeguards necessary to curb police discretion, which can allow racial stereotypes and biases to influence decisionmaking and lead to the disproportionate inclusion of people of color. This Note argues that the policy rationales underlying procedural due process highlight the inadequacies of these databases as tools for immigration adjudicators. By using them to determine eligibility for immigration benefits, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) imports the racial bias inherent in the criminal justice system to the immigration system. In order to avoid this result and increase both fairness and accuracy, DHS should bar adjudicators from relying on gang databases.