By Ann Block
I am a local immigration attorney, in practice for over 30 years. I have advised criminal defense attorneys all over the state for the last 15 years, so I have been able to observe how D.A.s work all over California, at least with regard to immigrants. I can say without hesitation that Yolo County is even worse than Orange County, regarding unjust and anti-immigrant policies. The following is based on my personal knowledge and experience, my discussions with Deputy DAs and Public Defenders and my assistance in the representation in the last case cited.
For most of his time in office, Mr. Reisig has refused to assist immigrant victims of serious crimes, including victims of domestic violence, if their cases were “closed.” He refused to certify that they cooperated with his office, even though they had done so, in order that the immigrant victim could go on to apply for “U” victim of crime status with USCIS (Immigration Service).
He claimed “it wasn’t the intent of Congress” despite the fact that USCIS law enforcement guidelines specifically stated that D.A.s could always certify in such cases, despite the fact that the chief law enforcement liaison for these cases at USCIS directly contacted Reisig’s office to tell him he could do so, and despite the fact that most D.A.s prefer waiting until cases are closed to certify victim cooperation. This anti-immigrant stance has harmed many crime victims in Yolo County.
Reisig’s office has also refused to consider deportation as an additional “punishment” for those he charges, and to negotiate pleas with defense attorneys to help lawful permanent residents (green card holders) as well as undocumented immigrants remain qualified to apply for immigration status to remain with their citizen spouses and children in the U.S. Some very minor offenses lead to deportation by the federal government, and/or denial of legal residency, such as writing a bad check, shoplifting, sitting in a park and being under the influence of marijuana, simple possession of a controlled substance (including marijuana).
Immigrants will often accept harsher criminal sentences, more time in jail, or even accept a felony “strike” that they haven’t committed, in order to avoid being deported and torn from their families. Reisig’s office has long refused to consider anything related to immigration as a factor in their decisions, stating it would somehow be “unconstitutional” even though the U.S. Supreme Court said otherwise, in 2009, as did the California Supreme Court, even before the federal courts.
Mr. Reisig also prosecuted an immigrant mother for abducting her own baby, for leaving the U.S. when the federal government ordered her to leave as her immigration status had expired. The violent father of her baby, who had initially wanted nothing to do with the child, filed for custody after she had left the area and had gone to L.A. to await a flight home to South Korea.
When she returned several years later to the U.S. so that her daughter could learn English, she was arrested at the airport, her daughter torn away from her, and she was held in jail without bond and without seeing her 4-year-old daughter for over a year and a half – and was ultimately convicted of a misdemeanor.
The father, in court, admitted to picking the petite mother of his child up by the neck and throwing her against a wall. The deputy D.A. claimed she “provoked him.” The father was never prosecuted for domestic violence.
Finally, some local attorneys fear retaliation from the District Attorney’s office if they speak up in this race. I have been personally informed, about two months ago, by an attorney who said she is afraid to endorse Dean Johannson publicly, for fear of the negative impact it could have on her immigrant crime victim clients who need certification of their cooperation from Mr. Reisig’s office. No one should fear speaking up regarding the policies and politics of an elected official. Yet here we are. I urge our Yolo County communities to vote for a change – for Dean Johansson for District Attorney.
Ann Block is a Davis resident and an immigration attorney