According to a report in Friday's New York Times, Qing Hong Wu, a 29-year-old man who has been a lawful permanent resident since entering the United States legally at the age of 5 and who worked his way up from poverty to become a vice president at a national financial company, was recently placed in deportation proceedings on the basis of crimes committed at the age of 15. As a result of these teenage convictions, the immigration authorities have locked him up without any bond hearing to determine whether his detention is justified.
Mr. Wu's case illustrates the urgent need to reform our immigration laws. Immigration judges should be permitted to look at each case individually — looking at factors such as an individual's contributions to society and the needs of his or her family — rather than being compelled to deport people based solely on old criminal convictions. Congress should also repeal the mandatory detention law, which requires the government to lock up people like Mr. Wu solely because they have committed crimes in the past. This law has been construed as prohibiting even a basic bond hearing to determine whether the individual being locked up presents a flight risk or danger to the community — in other words, as requiring detention even where a court would find that no purpose is being served by putting a particular person in jail.
According to the New York Times, even the judge who sentenced Mr. Wu for his conviction recognizes that he has turned his life around. "Here was a young man who did everything we expected of him," the judge said. "It really cries out for some kind of justice."