Case Study: A Decades-Long Trek Through Immigration Courts
An Armenian national who spent most of the last 22 years living illegally in the U.S. has been deported once again. Will the third time take?
Vigen Patatanyan, 59, isn’t one of those criminal aliens who rape or kill in between repeated expulsions. But his multiple bankruptcies and costly courtroom maneuvers are an illuminating case study of how America’s legal system is gamed.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Patatanyan first entered the U.S. Feb. 19, 2000, on a six-month nonimmigrant visa. An immigration judge ordered him removed in April 2001. But expulsion was put off until March 2004, when the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) finally upheld the deportation.
Six month later, Patatanyan turned up again in the U.S. Rejecting his appeal for admission, an immigration judge ordered removal in February 2005. The BIA concurred and Patatanyan was returned to Armenia a second time.
The persistent Armenian was back in 2016, and he was ultimately referred for prosecution for illegal re-entry. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California found Patatanyan guilty and, after a series of appeals, he was eventually re-arrested and kicked out of the country last May – six years later.
ICE’s 22-year timeline omits a few noteworthy details. During his stays in the U.S. Patatanyan was involved in four bankruptcy trials. Examining one of those cases, David North of the Center for Immigration Studies relates:
“He diddled nine different banks, ran up debts of about $159,000 and paid them off with the court’s permission for $4,617 [three cents on the dollar]. Perhaps if he had been popped into jail after being caught the second time as an illegal re-entrant, he would not have run up all those bills and created so much work for the feds, both in DHS and in the judiciary.”
By law, a two-time illegal entrant is eligible for incarceration; a third offense could, and should, lead to more prison time. But as indicated by the large number of aliens who repeatedly enter this country illegally, imprisonment is rarely exercised. This lackadaisical approach incentivizes migrants to keep coming back.
DHS reports that 27 percent of illegal border crossers in 2021 were repeat offenders. This is a conservative figure that does not include some 900,000 “gotaways” who eluded Border Patrol last year.
In any event, the Biden administration’s sieve-like immigration policies are enticing and enabling more illegal entrants than ever to make themselves at home here, without spending a day in court. To ensure that outcome, Attorney General Merrick Garland is purging immigration judges who insisted on upholding the rule of law.
Mr. Patatanyan, take note.