Tag Archives: ICE raids

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.

reform-not-raids1

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.

ACTION: Vote for Bob Hildreth, Bostonian of the Year!

hildrethThis past August, I had the privilege of seeing Robert Hildreth speak at the press launch of the National Immigrant Bond Fund. The NIBF was founded by Hildreth after the terrorizing ICE raids in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Hildreth saw the injustice of these raids as immigrants were shuffled through the legal system, denied due process and never saw a fair trial or got their day in court. The NIBF is a matching fund, that helps detainees make bond, in order to protect due process of the law.

Because of his efforts, Hildreth is a contender for “Bostonian of the Year”. Click here to cast your vote for Hildreth – a vote for justice and ensuring civil and constitutional rights. You only have until Friday, so vote NOW!

Raids at What Cost?

Its not as though we need more reasons to condemn the immigration raids that have been tearing apart communities, denying due process and separating families. But, Frank Sharry has written a very enlightening article at the Huffington Post about the financial costs of the raids.

Remember the immigration raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, back in May? According to today’s Des Moines Register, the raid set taxpayers back $5.2 million. According to the newspaper, “That means it has cost taxpayers an average of $13,396 for each of the 389 illegal immigrants taken into custody.”

Keep in mind that the $5.2 million – disclosed through a Freedom of Information Act request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ‑ is only what ICE spent. That doesn’t include the cost of criminal trials against the workers charged with ID crimes, indigent defense, and prison. According to an accompanying editorial in the Des Moines Register, “Prison costs alone ran $590,000 a month as of mid-summer.”

So let’s do the math, shall we? If it cost $13,396 to arrest each undocumented worker in the United States, and estimates are that there are at least 11.5 million people who fit that definition, then you, I, and the rest of American taxpayers could be looking at forking over $154 billion to ICE alone.

How much more of this are we going to have to endure? Without Just and Humane immigration reform, our government will not only continue its militant tactics against immigrants, but it will continue to fund its terror with our taxpayer money. And at this point in our history, we can afford either of the two.

Postville: 5 Months Later

Today, CNN ran its first of two articles discussing immigration in “Middle America”. Today’s installment catches up with the town of Postville, Iowa, five months after what was the largest immigration raid in history.

It’s a town that’s been turned “topsy turvy,” Mayor Bob Penrod says, since hundreds of heavily armed federal immigration agents swooped in a few months ago and raided its main employer, Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant.

“It makes a person feel kind of angry,” Penrod says. “It’s been nothing but a freaky nightmare since May.”

Since the raid in Postville, large-scale ICE raids have become more frequent. In August more than 600 immigrants were arrested in Laurel, Mississippi and just last week more than 300 were arrested in Greenville, South Carolina.

In Postville, CNN visited St. Bridget’s Catholic Church:

 …whose pastor, Father Lloyd Paul Ouderkirk, is both soft-spoken and outspoken. It is his church that became a refuge for the town’s immigrants the day of the raid and the weeks afterward.

“They had attacked this town with a military-style raid — brought in 900 immigration police to arrest 389 people. I mean, what is that other than a military raid on this town?” he says.

Ouderkirk scans his church now, the sun beaming through stained-glass windows. “Can you just imagine all these pews here full of people, sleeping 300-400 people a night?”

Many residents in Postville are still reeling from the affects of the raid. The town’s crime rate has gone up, local businesses are hurting and tensions are running high.

Residents feel like the town was “made an example of”. One resident, Brian Gravel, the principal of Postville High School noted that, “Picking on a town of 2,500 people in northeast Iowa is not my idea of a naturalization or immigration policy.” Postville, like so many other communities torn apart by ICE have become symbolic sacrifices, a way for the current administration to seem like it is “doing something” about immigration. But if Postville is any indication, the raids are acheiving little except the destruction of communities, families and businesses.

Candidates Guides on Immigration

As I’ve mentioned before, our two presidential candidates are unabashedly courting the Latino vote, while remaining hesitant to discuss immigration.

Our immigration system in the United States is broken, and as immigration raids spiral out of control and immigrants are blamed for anything and everything, we are in dire need of a sensible discussion about this issue.

 

Have no fear, the Immigration Policy Center to the rescue! IPC has recently released to documents, to help political candidates engage in thoughtful and articulate dialogue about immigration.

The candidate packet was created as a resource for candidates and current elected officials to use in their efforts towards  achieving a real, effective, and practical immigration policy that keeps the interests of all those living and working in our country at heart. 

A Candidate’s Guide to Immigration along with a two-page document of Answers to the Toughest Questions are factual documents, backed by hard data and statistics.

I highly recommend Answers to the Toughest Questions to both presidential candidates. Now you can stop avoiding the topic and start a desperately needed dialogue with the American public!

ACTION: Vote Yes to Protect Our Rights!

On Thursday, Senators Menedez (D-NJ) and Kennedy (D-MA) introduced legislation aimed at protecting citizens and legal permanent residents who are unlawfully detained and deported by the Department of Homeland Security during immigration raids.

Amidst the chaos of ever-increasing immigration raids across the country, the bill is a long overdue call for regulation of the gestapo tacitcs of DHS and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Though both presidential candidates have been avoiding the issue of immigration during their campaigns, raids have been occuring with an alarming frequency everywhere from Hawaii to Maryland. ICE is out of control and has been conducting these raids without any Congressional oversight or regulation. Due process has been consistently denied to all people detained during these raids, as witnessed by countless testimonies – for more on this check out a previous post on  May’s raid in Postville, Iowa and this one covering the shocking violence used during a raid in Annapolis, Maryland.

With the raids out of control, this bill is not only welcome, but long overdue. It is time that be regulated, it is time they stop being above the law and it is time that Congressional oversight is implemented.

The bill will:

* Create due process protections, such as notification of immigration charges and access to counsel and phones, during immigration enforcement efforts;
* Require DHS to implement regulations to ensure that immigration detainees are treated humanely;
* Promote “alternatives to detention” programs that are more humane and cost-effective than traditional penal-style detention;
* Establish an ICE ombudsman to investigate complaints and to create DHS accountability; and
* Provide labor protections to ensure that ICE worksite raids do not undermine labor or employment law investigations.

Call your Senator and ask them to vote YES on S. 3594: Protect Citizens and Residents From Unlawful Raids and Detention Act!

Here is a quick video about how to call your Senator and ask for a YES vote!

What Civil Rights? This is post 9-11!

In yet another example of the erosion of civil rights we are witnessing in this country, the Bush adminitration passed more legislation in the ongoing “war on terrorism”. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit.

The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They said they had asked the Department of Homeland Security for details of any policy that would guide or limit such questioning and received no reply.

So, unregulated workplace ICE raids, where people are lined up by race and then arrested, warantless wiretapping and now indefinite power for customs agents to harass travelers without ANY suspicion of wrongdoing. Does anybody else feel like this is a burgeoning police state?

This makes me think of the Pew Hispanic Center study released last week: they found that 1 in 10 Latinos living in the United States had been asked about their immigration status by government officials. The majority of Latinos living in this country are citizens, legal permanent residents or were BORN here. But they continue to be targeted by authorities because of their skin color, under the guise of “counterterrorism”.

Come on, America, you can do better than this.

Standing FIRM – Back in Action

After a small summer hiatus, we are back in the blogosphere, friends!

A lot has happened in the past few weeks and there’s no way to cover it all, but we will try to quickly catch up and be back on top of the current news of the day.

For now, there are a few major stories unfolding:

* Last week’s raid in Laurel, Mississippi (which edged out Postville for the largest workplace raid in history)

* The DNC and it’s message (or lack thereof) on immigration

* This week’s RNC – we will keep you posted on how the immigration issue unfolds with the GOP

ICE Raids: Working for the Elites and their Status Quo

There is a great post at DMI Blog today, analyzing the much broader political implications of maintaining the ICE raids at their current level.

The post focuses on David Coss, mayor of Santa Fe, who is a strong pro-migrant supporter. Coss says:

We know what the right thing to do is. We have political leadership that wants to keep us from doing [the right thing] because the division works for them. But it doesn’t work for us. And most people know that.

Our government knows that comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do, but it would not be the politically expedient thing to do. Divisiveness allows politicians to stage raids, in order to look as though they are “doing something” about immigration, while the already rich corporations and big business profit off of the cheap labor of exploited immigrants.

The longer the political leadership is able to use immigration raids as a proxy for actual immigration reform, the longer elites will benefit from the economic contributions of immigrants while immigrants themselves – and American workers whose working conditions and wages are undermined – suffer. Just as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are paradigms of that newestcliché “heads you win, tails we lose”, enforcement-only immigration tactics work for political leadership who look like their doing something, while the rest of us – documented and undocumented immigrants, naturalized citizens, native-born citizens, whomever – are losing the valuable contributions that immigrants with a pathway to citizenship have to offer.

Below is a video of Mayor Coss.

ICE Raids my Hometown

Holy. Crap.

Sorry, I can think of no other way to begin this post.

You know, I have been blogging about ICE raids for a few months now – following the stories, cursing our administration’s enforcement only tactics, feeling my heart hurt for the families and communities destroyed. But, this afternoon, I got an email with the breaking news of another raid. I opened it, feeling nothing but “here we go again”, and was shocked when I read my hometown’s name in the first line of the story.

Asheville, North Carolina. A stronghold of progressive and compassionate thought in a state plagued by a history of racism and prejudice. Not there. No way.

But, alas, the roots of the nativist network run deep – and half a mile from the house I grew up in, ICE agents round up working people by the dozens. Around five dozen to be exact.

The 59 people are employees of Mills Manufacturing Corporation, a government contractor that makes parachutes for the U.S. military.

U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Ivan L. Ortiz-Delgado said that detentions are part of a targeted investigation.

Ortiz-Delgado said that Mills Manufacturing is not a target of the investigation and has been fully cooperative. The 59 workers who have been detained are out of a total company workforce of 175, Ortiz-Delgado said.

So if Mills Manufacturing isn’t a target – why them, why now?

I will continue to repeat Congressman Luis Gutierrez in his eloquent piece from the Chicago Tribune earlier this month “Mr. President stop your raids on our communities”.

And now, more than ever, I mean that last part. It changes everything when its your community.