Washington Law Review


Colleen Melody


Federal law-enforcement agents use informants to help guide investigations. Immigrants sometimes possess valuable information about organized crime connected with their home countries. To persuade an immigrant to divulge such information, federal agents and prosecutors often promise to reward cooperation with permission to stay in the United States. Non-deportation is a persuasive enticement to an informant who might otherwise be unwilling to help; criminal groups would likely harm a known informant returning home. After deciding to cooperate, many immigrants are placed in deportation proceedings notwithstanding their deals. This Comment discusses the persistent legal conundrum faced by immigrant informants after the U.S. government refuses to honor a non-deportation contract. It begins with a review of two forms of deportation relief commonly pursued by immigrant informants: withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture or an injunction against deportation under substantive due process. For reasons specific to each, both approaches frequently fail. The agency theory of ratification may provide an alternative mechanism for enforcing some non-deportation agreements. Ratification applies to contracts with the U.S. government and has been used by plaintiffs in similar contexts. This Comment argues that extending ratification to immigrant-informant claims comports with the legal framework and broader purpose underlying the doctrine.

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