Salim didn’t realize, he later said, citing a language barrier, that income from a second side job also needed to be included.
The lapse resulted in a criminal overpayment of benefits of $12,549 — or $782 per month. The dollar amount made the crime a felony, which put Salim, a permanent American resident but not yet a citizen, at risk of deportation. In an agreement with the judge, Salim pleaded guilty, and the judge downgraded the sentence to a gross misdemeanor, handing down a suspended sentence of 364 days (just two days shorter than a felony sentence would have been), probation, and restitution.
…The office of Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, with Klobuchar’s signoff, decided to appeal the guilty verdict, arguing that the stayed sentence should be increased by two days, pushing it back into felony territory, which would be grounds for the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service to begin deportation proceedings.
…Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the decision to appeal the Salim case was “deeply, deeply troubling,” saying that it fit a pattern of “overzealous prosecutors that choose to spend limited resources to turn misdemeanors into felonies that result in unjust deportation, which is a very severe penalty.”
…The State of Minnesota has neither any standing nor any business being a “gopher” or a “water boy” for the INS. It is just none of their business. The defendant in this case is not “Lucky Luciano,” but rather an immigrant, a resident alien, who failed to report all household income for purposes of continuing to get more welfare and food stamps. To be sure, it is against the law, but the legally prescribed penalty for this crime is the lowest possible felony sentence that can be given in the State of Minnesota.
… KLOBUCHAR’S OFFICE’S flip attitude toward the immigration consequences of their prosecutions extended to another case around the same time. In July 1999, James Stanford Byron, a legal permanent resident who hailed from Trinidad and Tobago, was charged with felony marijuana sale and possession. The judge in his case stayed imposition of his sentence, handing down three years probation. Thanks to good behavior, he was granted an early discharge from probation in December 2000, and the felony was reduced to a misdemeanor on his record.
Byron thought he was out of the woods and, in February 2003, visited Trinidad and Tobago. On his way back home, he was detained in Miami by immigration authorities, who flagged his felony conviction and put him in the process of deportation.
…Klobuchar’s office stepped in, appealing the ruling to a higher court, and arguing that Byron should suffer the consequences of his felony plea, even if it was later reduced to a misdemeanor.
……In her 2006 Senate campaign, Klobuchar ran as a tough crime fighter. “I’m someone who puts people in jail for a living,” she boasted.
Reinstating a felony that had been reduced to a misdemeanor to deport someone? Deport someone over foodstamps??? Jeezus, Amy….