Today the Washington Post reports on calls for a change in the border screening tactics used by the U.S. government. With personal, political and religious questions as an institutionalized part of these screenings, it is not suprising that the government’s “Terrorism Watch List” has topped 1,000,000 people. Yes, you read those zeroes correctly – our government currently has one million people flagged as potential terrorists.
Over the years, watch-list mismatches have entangled countless individuals whose names are similar to those on the government’s master database of terrorism suspects, which includes more than 1 million names and aliases used by 400,000 people.
Questions that are often included in these screenings are:
“What is your religion?” “What mosque do you attend?” “How often do you pray?” “What do you think of the war in Iraq?” “What charities do you contribute to?”
In response, Muslim Advocates have released a groundbreaking report on the targeting of Americans – because they are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim – by Customs & Border Protection agents for deeply invasive searches and interrogations.
The report, Unreasonable Intrusions: Investigating the Politics, Faith & Finances of Americans Returning Home, can be viewed here: http://www.muslimadvocates.org/documents/Unreasoneable_Intrusions_2009.pdf
The report contains dozens of stories of individuals who have shared with Muslim Advocates their experiences when returning home from overseas travel. These experiences have taken place at land crossings and international airports – from San Francisco to New York, Detroit to Houston. These Americans are young, old, male, female, a firefighter, military veterans, students, lawyers, doctors, senior executives with major high tech companies, and academic researchers at Ivy League institutions.
The report also lays out a comprehensive set of solutions for the President and Congress. These solutions strike the right balance in upholding our nation’s founding values and keeping our nation safe and secure.
As the Washington Post reports:
The DHS has received more than 54,500 requests for redress since February 2007 and closed 31,000 of them, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Critics say the program does not inform travelers whether their names are listed, whether any change has been made or how to get off the watch list and avoid being relisted.
This issues, which fall into the broader category of Civil Rights violations, which are currently being investigated in Congress, must be dealt with head on by the administration.
Today the Washington Post published an article about an impending policy shift in the way the Department of Homeland Security does business. Immigration raids, which were the Bush administration’s pride and joy, are being restructured under Obama and new DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The raids, which target workers and destroy communities, are now shifting focus.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.
A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute — increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.
“There will be a change in policy, but in the interim, you’ve got to scrutinize the cases coming up,” the senior DHS official said, noting Napolitano’s expectations as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.
These delays are a good sign that immigration enforcement policy will be changing. In recent weeks there have been many prominent leaders (both political and faith) calling for a change in immigration policy and an end to the destructive raids.
While a policy is still under development, Napolitano has said she intends to focus more on prosecuting criminal cases of wrongdoing by companies. Analysts say they also think ICE may conduct fewer raids, focusing routine enforcement on civil infractions of worker eligibility verification rules.
This is good news since it signals an end to scapegoating the most vulnerable while letting the powerful off the hook. However, just a shift in enforcement policy will not be enough to right the course. This must come along with comprehensive reform in order to truly begin to fix the broken system.
Today, the New York Times reported that the Government Accountability Office has released their findings on a study of the infamous 287(g) program. The program, which has 67 participating local law enforcement agencies, is designed to allow local law enforcement agents to enforce Federal immigration laws.
We have been saying for years that not only is 287(g) ineffective, but it is costly to communities, who experience a heightened sense of insecurity and fear under the program. Well, now the GAO is coming out and saying basically the same thing.
The report, to be released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says the government has failed to determine how many of the thousands of people deported under the program were the kind of violent felons it was devised to root out.
Some law enforcement agencies had used the program to deport immigrants “who have committed minor crimes, such as carrying an open container of alcohol,” the report said, and at least four agencies referred minor traffic offenders for deportation.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has already ordered a review of the program. A top official at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is set to testify at a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.
The ineffective program is yet another symptom created by the lack of Immigration Reform at the Federal level. When Federal laws are pushed off onto local entities for enforcement, you are bound to run into issues. This is a Federal problem and should be dealt with as such.
Again (and I feel like a broken record here, people) this draws even more attention to the NEED FOR COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM. The system is broken and no amount of manuevering at the local level can fix it. Immigration Reform must be passed, and soon.
On Monday, Janet Napolitano named Esther Olavarria as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for policy, a role that will focus on immigration. We applaud Napolitano’s choice of Olavarria, who worked closely with Sen. Ted Kennedy to fight for immigrants and was a major architect of comprehensive immigration reform efforts in recent years.
Esther Olavarria brings nearly 20 years of experience on immigration policy to her new job at the Department of Homeland Security. Most recently, she was a Senior Fellow and Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, where she was responsible for planning, developing and administering the organization’s work on immigration issues, with a principal focus on policy and advocacy strategies on comprehensive immigration reform; planning and convening roundtables and other venues for discussion, and conducting research and write on immigration issues.
Also, on Monday, Obama tapped John Morton to be the Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Morton is a career prosecutor with lengthy experience in immigration enforcement and criminal prosecution.
Yesterday, the New York Times featured a report recently released by the Migration Policy Institute. The report finds that the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration policy is, well, broken. (Tell us something we don’t know!)
An immigration policy group said Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration mission has been undermined by wasteful spending along the southern border, law enforcement efforts that focused on snaring illegal workers rather than high-risk criminals, and an often hostile bureaucracy that discourages people eligible for legal entry from playing by the rules.
The report also discusses 36 steps that President Obama can take to improve immigration policy, without enacting legslation. While things like Presidential directives, such as stopping raids on workplaces and homes, would be a welcome change in policy, they should only serve as interim measures until fully Comphrehensive Reform is reached. As Paco Fabian at America’s Voice posted today,
To not do so would mean taking a portrait of dysfunction and turning it into a legacy.
This week, I posted on the new low hit by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, when he marched over 200 immigrant detainees shackled through the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. Today, the New York Times published an editorial calling on the new head of DHS, Janet Napolitano and the Federal Government to gain back control on an immigration enforcement system that has gone unchecked for much too long. I think its worthwhile to re-print the full piece here.
It has come to this: In Phoenix on Wednesday, more than 200 men in shackles and prison stripes were marched under armed guard past a gantlet of TV cameras to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence. They were inmates being sent to await deportation in a new immigrant detention camp minutes from the center of America’s fifth-largest city.
The judge, jury and exhibitioner of this degrading spectacle was the Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, the publicity-obsessed star of a Fox reality show and the self-appointed scourge of illegal immigrants. Though he frequently and proudly insists that he answers to no one, except at election time, the sheriff is not an isolated rogue. As a participant in the federal policing program called 287(g), he is an official partner of the United States government in its warped crackdown on illegal immigration.
The immigration enforcement regime left by the Bush Administration is out of control. It is up to President Obama and the new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, to rein it in and clean it up. This applies not just to off-the-rails deputies like Sheriff Arpaio, but to the federal enforcement agencies themselves.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol have been shown in recent news accounts to be botching their jobs. Border Patrol agents in California have accused supervisors of setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, and a recent Migration Policy Institute study showed that a much-touted campaign of raids against criminal fugitives was a failure. It netted mostly the maids and laborers who are no reasonable person’s idea of a national threat.
The burden of action is particularly high on Ms. Napolitano, who as Arizona’s governor handled Sheriff Arpaio with a gingerly caution that looked to some of his critics and victims as calculated and timid.
Ms. Napolitano, who is known as a serious and moderate voice on immigration, recently directed her agency to review its enforcement efforts, including looking at ways to expand the 287(g) program. Sheriff Arpaio is a powerful argument for doing just the opposite.
Now that she has left Arizona politics behind, Ms. Napolitano is free to prove this is not Arpaio’s America, where the mob rules and immigrants are subject to ritual humiliation. The country should expect no less.
In a statement issued by Michael Chertoff of the Department of Homeland Security yesterday, it was announced that Julie Myers will resign from Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Novemeber 15th.
Chertoff noted Myers’ “acheivements”. Among them:
Under Julie’s leadership, ICE has undertaken exceptional law enforcement operations with unprecedented results. She has instituted and overseen several key law enforcement programs that have dramatically enhanced the department’s efforts to curb illegal immigration and ensure strong enforcement of customs laws. ICE has set enforcement records for three consecutive fiscal years in criminal alien and fugitive arrests, worksite enforcement, and overall alien removals. She has implemented programs that have transformed how federal, state and local law enforcement work together, share information and enhance public safety.
In other words, more raids that tear communities and families apart, more immigrants pushed into the shadows because they fear public safety officials and more unregulated power being pumped through the department.
Lets hope Myers’ resignation marks a new era for the department.
Subhash Kateel has written a great article in the current edition of LeftTurn. Going beyond green cards and legalization, Kateel writes about the immigrant prison-industrial complex and predictions that have unfortunately come true in recent years.
During the debate over Immigration Reform in 2006 and 2007, it was said that:
A system was developing that would systematically criminalize and attack immigrants’ lives as people of color and working people. This emerging apartheid would use the criminal justice-, prison-, and deportation systems – and any other system – at its disposal to make lives of immigrants – both legal and undocumented – as hard as possible. What we would see, whether we won reform or not, would be more arrests, more raids, more detentions, and more deportations. In sum, more destruction of our communities.
Sadly, this prediction has proved to be right on target.
We felt no satisfaction when government tactics confirmed our worst fears. No one wants to be right or prophetic when predicting the destruction of our communities.
For whatever reason the link to the full article at LeftTurn.org isn’t working. Click here to read the full text on the Education, Equity, Politics and Policy in Texas blog.
Recently, Dr. Eric Camayd-Frexais wrote a report exposing the flaws and injustices involved in the legal proceedings following May’s immigration raid in Postville, Iowa. The report was so damning and exposed so many injustices that a committee hearing in the House of Representative was recently held, followed by the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus visiting Postville.
During the committee proceedings on Capitol Hill, a representative from the Department of Justice repeated numerous times that the decision to charge the immigrants with a criminal offense was made by the “career prosecutors in Iowa”.
As it turns out, however, all of the injustices witnessed by Dr. Camayd-Frexais and the decision to charge the immigrants with the criminal “aggravated ID theft” were pre-determined by the goverment.
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union were able to get a hold of the government “manual” that was issued to defense lawyers representing the undocumented immigrant workers apprehended and prosecuted in Postville.
As Dr. Camayd-Freixas so expertly noted, there was purposeful disregard for the judicial process. What the federal translator didn’t realize was that it was all scripted. The ACLU has uncovered a government “how-to” manual regarding the prosecution and processing of undocumented migrants.
The manual contained “prepackaged scripts for plea and sentencing hearings as well as documents providing for guilty pleas and waivers of rights that were used to push the more than 300 Postville workers through mass criminal proceedings as quickly as possible.”
According to the ACLU analysis of the manual:
The government “manual” provided for the workers to waive all their legal rights and in the overwhelming majority of cases, to plead guilty to charges of falsely using identity documents for employment. It was an important tool used to rush defendants through the criminal justice and immigration systems without a criminal trial or immigration proceedings. The plea forms in the “manual” included a requirement barring immigrants from pursuing any legal claims or procedures under the immigration laws.
The revelation of this manual implies that the same “code of conduct” is being applied to apprehended undocumented immigrants in makeshift courts across the country in order to expedite their removal.