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Cook Co. aims to disrupt conviction-to-deportation pipeline

CHICAGO (AP) — Alejandra Cano thought she was in the clear.

It had been five years since she got sober after a decades long struggle with drug addiction. She racked up several misdemeanors when she was using, mostly for shoplifting. But that was another life. In this one, Cano, 46, was a working single mom who lived in a comfortable first-floor apartment on the West Side of Chicago with her two teenage sons. And after almost 20 years of not seeing her dad or her homeland, Cano decided to fly to Chile in August 2019.

“I still had my green card. I had no reason to worry,” Cano said.

She was wrong. Upon her return from Chile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at O’Hare International Airport pulled Cano aside. Her rap sheet had popped up when they ran her fingerprints at the customs checkpoint, even though her last conviction was five years earlier. After hours of waiting alongside other noncitizens, an agent took away Cano’s green card. The government is now seeking to revoke her legal status and deport her.


The nonprofit news outlet Injustice Watch provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News. ___

Cano is one of thousands of people — including undocumented immigrants, visa holders, and lawful permanent residents — who go through deportation proceedings in Chicago each year, according to federal immigration court data collected by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Many end up there via the criminal justice system. Not only do arrests draw the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, certain criminal convictions can also trigger a deportation case. That includes offenses that, for a citizen, might mean only a court fee or short jail sentence. But noncitizens can end up being punished...

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