This continues our series of student reflections and analysis authored by our research team.
The Prosecution Project (tPP) analyzes a wide variety of variables to uncover and assess patterns in the prosecution and punishment of domestic terrorism in the United States, and my research has led me to pay interest to one variable in particular: additional sentencing.
In our codebook, additional sentencing is an open-ended, quasi-catch-all variable. tPP explicitly measures the length of jail/prison sentences and the presence or absence of life/death sentences. The additional sentencing variable, however, records other punishments, as well as any special enhancements specified in their sentencing or notable acts the defendant was charged under. Common codes under the additional sentencing variable include probation, time served, and hate crime or firearm enhancements. This variable holds a treasure trove of information for future analysis, but one specific code under this umbrella caught my interest from the beginning of my time working with tPP: deportation.
After joining tPP this past winter and beginning to code cases, I began to notice the repetition of deportation as an added punishment on top of, or in lieu of, the standard jail sentencing or probation. According to USA.gov, the United States “may deport foreign nationals who participate in criminal acts, are a threat to public safety, or violate their visa” (USA.gov). This broad operationalization of the criterion allowing for deportation gives the United States government the power to deport most of the foreign-born nationals in our data set. The only factor that should determine whether deportation occurs is whether the foreign defendant in question is found guilty or innocent of a criminal act, but the United States does not seem to apply this policy consistently.
As of October 2018, tPP has a completed data set of nearly 1200 cases, 32 of which involve deportation. However, of the cases in our data set, 296 involve foreign-born, non-naturalized defendants. Many foreign born, non-naturalized individuals were found guilty, but were still allowed to remain in the country. After spending nearly a year working with this project, my question is: why? Are there consistent, measurable differences in the characteristics of foreign-born, deported defendants compared to the characteristics of foreign-born, non-deported defendants? How does this compare to our tPP data set as whole? My future research using the data tPP has gathered will aim to uncover if there is a clear answer to these questions.
USA.gov. (2018). Deportation. Retrieved from https://www.usa.gov/deportation