Immigrant Hijack

February 4, 2009
                New Orleans                      For some people the notion of an immigrant family working in the United States without perfect paperwork is just “tough stuff” and just desserts, but most Americans understand that there is a fundamentally and fully broken system that has created a class of employers desperate for the labor and a large mass of workers equally desperate for jobs and opportunity.  The inability of elected leadership to exercise the maturity and will to fix the problem so that there is fairness for all parties is one of the civil and human rights tragedies of our time, which must weigh urgently on the Obama Administration.

                It seems though that the wedge politics around this issue allowed enforcement efforts by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which had to renamed because they don’t do enough naturalization but the government wants to pretend they do a lot of enforcement] to essentially “bait and switch” Congress and the people.  The program was sold as an effort to root out potential terrorists and folks who were disobeying a deportation order.  Instead between 2004 and 2006 it became a search and destroy outfit touching almost 100000 people and trying to create fear and terror in immigrant communities. 

Harrowing tales of blindly knocking on doors looking for immigrants should not be part of the rules of engagement in the USA.  Neither should fibbing to Congress to ratchet your program from less than $10 M to over $100M, but with a new Congress and a new ICE director, maybe there will be some harder questions now.

                This all needs a huge fix and now.
           
     Here’s an excerpt from the Times:

Target of Immigrant Raids Shifted

By NINA BERNSTEIN Published: February 3, 2009

The raids on homes around the country were billed as carefully planned hunts for dangerous immigrant fugitives, and given catchy names like Operation Return to Sender.

And they garnered bigger increases in money and staff from Congress than any other program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even as complaints grew that teams of armed agents were entering homes indiscriminately.

But in fact, beginning in 2006, the program was no longer what was being advertised. Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.

Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.

Internal directives by immigration officials in 2006 raised arrest quotas for each team in the National Fugitive Operations Program, eliminated a requirement that 75 percent of those arrested be criminals, and then allowed the teams to include nonfugitives in their count.

In the next year, fugitives with criminal records dropped to 9 percent of those arrested, and nonfugitives picked up by chance — without a deportation order — rose to 40 percent. Many were sent to detention centers far from their homes, and deported.

The impact of the internal directives, obtained by a professor and students at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law through a Freedom of Information lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shows the power of administrative memos to significantly alter immigration enforcement policy without any legislative change.

The memos also help explain the pattern of arrests documented in a report, criticizing the fugitive operations program, to be released on Wednesday by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington.

Analyzing more than five years of arrest data supplied to the institute last year by Julie Myers, who was then chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the report found that over all, as the program spent a total of $625 million, nearly three-quarters of the 96,000 people it apprehended had no criminal convictions.

Without consulting Congress, the report concluded, the program shifted to picking up “the easiest targets, not the most dangerous fugitives.”

It noted, however, that the most recent figures available indicate an increase in arrests of those with a criminal background last year, though it was unclear whether that resulted from a policy change.

The increased public attention comes as the new secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has ordered a review of the fugitive teams operation, which was set up in 2002 to find and deport noncitizens with outstanding orders of deportation, then rapidly expanded after 2003 with the mission of focusing on the most dangerous criminals.

Peter L. Markowitz, who teaches immigration law at Cardozo and directs its immigration legal clinic, said the memos obtained in its lawsuit reflected the Bush administration’s effort to appear tough on immigration enforcement during the unsuccessful push to pass comprehensive immigration legislation in 2006, and amid rising anger over illegal immigration.

“It looks like what happened here is that the law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the political agenda of the administration,” he said.

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