John Lennon’s US immigration case was not won without challenges
The possibility of executive action on immigration (and deferred action for parents of DREAMERs) was in the news recently. Unfortunately, not for the reason that many immigrants had been hoping for.
Any executive action will be delayed until after Election Day. Maybe there will be a nice “holiday package.”
However, KPCC recently did a news story about the origins of deferred action and prosecutorial discretion. I have discussed prosecutorial discretion on these pages before. In this news story, the interviewers speak with Leon Wildes, who defended John Lennon against deportation in the 1970s. According to the story, the U.S. government wanted to deport John Lennon because he had been convicted of a drug possession crime. The process was being overseen by the District Director of the Immigration & Nationality Service in New York City. Although there was public support to allow John Lennon to stay, the District Director claimed in his public statements that he was simply enforcing the laws as they existed.
Mr. Lennon’s attorney had an inkling that there might be more to the story than what the District Director was saying publicly. The attorney filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (a request for the government’s public records) asking specifically for cases of individuals who could be deported by the US government, but that the government had opted not to pursue the deportations.
After receiving the files, the attorney made the case that due to John Lennon’s significant contributions to the arts and public discourse, he too should be allowed to stay in the United States despite his deportable offense. Although the argument did not gain traction with the judge, an appeals court later overturned the judge’s decision and the INS granted Mr. Lennon what is now known as “deferred action.”
You may say that he was a Dreamer, but he’s not the only one (eligible for “deferred action” or “prosecutorial discretion”). I hope that one day you will join me . . . in my office, and the world will be as one.