ICE Raids Shift Focus: Policy Bends to Politics

Before I even woke up today, at least 5 people had sent me a link to a current article in the New York Times by Nina Bernstein. In the article, she explores the dramatic shift in ICE raids that has occurred in the past 4 years. As we all know, ICE raids have been symbolic gestures by the Bush administration to look as though they are “doing something” about immigration since facing a failed reform push in 2006.


Well now, thanks to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, we know that these policy shifts were internal directives by immigration officials that changed ICE’s policies, directly contradicting the programs that Congress had approved.

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 article, the list of changes continues. It becomes increasingly clear that this is an example of policy bending to the will of politics – in other words, despite the humanitarian and civil rights concerns of what ICE was doing, the agency had an agenda to follow and would do so no matter what.

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

Let’s hope that this new administration, along with Janet Napolitano at the helm of DHS, can produce policies that are realistic, humane and inflexible to the political agendas of the last 8 years.

Click here to read the full NY Times article.

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