Tag Archives: ICE

Today: Calling out Obama and ICE

Late notice, y’all, but today there is a telephonic press conference calling President Obama out for the inconsistencies in his message about supporting immigration reform and recent news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is increasing quotas to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants.

Check it out and join if you can:

WHAT: Telephonic press conference to demand President Obama take control of rogue agency

WHO: Organized by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM)
Speakers include Deepak Bhargava, executive director, Center for Community Change
Maria Rodriguez, executive director, Florida Immigrant Coalition
Ramon Ramirez, executive director, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Oregon)
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director, Voces de la Frontera (Wisconsin)
Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Angela Sanbrano, board president, National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC)

WHEN: TODAY 1 p.m., Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CALL-IN NUMBER: (866) 861-4868, Conference ID 1446669

WHY: Nearly 15 months into President Obama’s administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) remains an agency without a clear direction. The latest evidence of ICE’s missing leadership was revealed last week in the form of an email written by a senior official setting out specific quotas for deportations, which deviated from publicly made statements by other senior officials and also veers drastically away from ICE’s stated commitment to focus on dangerous and violent criminals.

On the heels of organizing the largest protest of the Obama presidency, a march that brought more than 200,000 people to the National Mall on March 21 to call for comprehensive immigration reform, grassroots leaders intend to demand President Obama take responsibility and control of this agency run amok. Leaders from some of the country’s most prominent immigrant rights organizations will call for drastic changes at ICE, and insist the agency stop targeting hard working immigrants and stop separating families.

Home Raids Violate the Constitution (tell us something we didn’t already know)

This week, Cardozo School of Law released a report asserting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not only violated their own rules during home raids in New York and New Jersey, but also violated the U.S. Constitution. For those of you who have followed the story of ICE’s unchecked power under the Bush administration, this comes as no surprise. From the New York Times:

The raids were supposed to focus on dangerous criminals, but overwhelmingly netted Latinos with civil immigration violations who happened to be present, the study said. Raiders mistakenly held legal residents and citizens by force in their own homes while agents rummaged through drawers seeking incriminating documents, the report said.

Some of the most egregious portions of the report include emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, showing that ICE agents saw the rounding up of immigrants and Latinos as nothing more than a glorified game of cops and robbers.

…A federal immigration agent in Connecticut invited a state trooper to join a scheduled set of raids in New Haven, writing: “We have 18 addresses — so it should be a fun time! Let me know if you guys can play!

These are not games and they should not be treated as such. The conduct of ICE and therefore of DHS has been in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution and the rules that the agency itself purports to follow.

Despite all of this and OVERWHELMING evidence that the so-called 287(g) program, which gives local law enforcement agencies the ability to enforce federal immigration law, is rampant with abuse and racial profiling, the Department of Homeland Security recently signed 11 new 287(g) agreements across the country.Keep in mind, this is the same program that keeps Joe Arpaio in power for his reign of terror in Arizona.

While DHS claims that much has changed under the new administration, I don’t think they are going far enough. Janet Napolitano needs to step up as the head of DHS and stop the racialized attack on Latinos and immigrants. This isn’t just about immigration, this is about the character of our country and our values. Do we want to endorse a program that violates the rights of those the Constitution supposedly protects? Do we want to create communities teeming with fear and distrust of law enforcement agencies who are their to “serve and protect”?

I think you know the answer.

Today Marks One Year since Postville

red ribbon

Today, people across the country are holding vigils, ringing bells, calling their Congressman and donning red ribbons in remembrance of the May 12th, 2008 ICE raid in Postville, Iowa.

I had big plans to write a long post about the raid, one year ago today, in Postville. I was new to the immigration debate at the time, and spent much of my first months as a pro-migrant blogger keeping up with the developments of the Postville aftermath. I interviewed people on the ground, wrote case studies on rapid response, attended a House Judiciary Hearing on raids and blogged about all of the outrageous injustices that came to light after the fact. However, as I sat down to write this morning, I realized that I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

From the NY Times last August:

The harsh prosecution at Postville is an odd and cruel shift for the Bush administration, which for years had voiced compassion for exploited workers and insisted that immigration had to be fixed comprehensively or not at all.

Now it has abandoned mercy and proportionality. It has devised new and harsher traps, as in Postville, to prosecute the weak and the poor. It has increased the fear and desperation of workers who are irresistible to bottom-feeding businesses precisely because they are fearful and desperate. By treating illegal low-wage workers as a de facto criminal class, the government is trying to inflate the menace they pose to a level that justifies its rabid efforts to capture and punish them. That is a fraudulent exercise, and a national disgrace.

When I read those last lines, I realized how far away I feel from that moment. So much has changed since then – our President, our allies and the tone of the debate itself. I feel much more hopeful about the direction we are moving. There are certainly things that I would change about the current approach – i.e. the massive amount of funding that just went to border and interior enforcement or the court system that allowed an all-white jury to acquit three teenagers of a brutal, racially motivated murder.

But, today, in remembrance of Postville and the families, lives and communities desroyed a year ago, I’m choosing to feel optimistic. I’m choosing to believe that we have too much momentum and too much strength to not win change this year.  So much has changed, but for the people of Postville, even more has changed. The town still suffers and some of the immigrants arrested that day are still caught in the limbo of the broken system. So today, in solidarity with Postville, I’m choosing to ACT in the belief that it is up to us to create the change we want. You can too.

  1. Call your Representative or Congressman and tell them that you support Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
  2. Attend a Remembrance Vigil in your area – for a map of vigils click here.
  3. Don a Red Ribbon in solidarity with the Postville community.

State and Local Roundup

states

NJ: Cresitello Defends Immigration Enforcement Plan – Mayor Donald Cresitello defended his proposal to have local police enforce federal immigration laws during a forum Saturday that included a panel of immigration lawyers and advocates.

UT: Some Agencies Resist Role Enforcing ICE Laws – Some law-enforcement leaders in Salt Lake County have been outspoken about their reservations to cross-deputize their officers, but others are waiting before making a decision.

TX: Backlash Grows over Screenings for ICE At Jail – Mayor Bill White is facing increasing hostility over his decision to have the city participate in a federal program that trains local jailers to act as immigration agents.

U.S. Citizens Arrested as Undocumented Immigrants

united_states_passport2

Yesterday, the Associated Press published a lengthy article revealing just how broken our current immigration system is. Not only, they report, have at least a dozen U.S. Citizens been deported, but hundreds are unlawfully arrested and detained each month.

…citizens still end up in detention because the system is overwhelmed, acknowledged Victor Cerda, who left Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2005 after overseeing the system.

The result is the detention of citizens with the fewest resources: the mentally ill, minorities, the poor, children and those with outstanding criminal warrants, ranging from unpaid traffic tickets to failure to show up for probation hearings. Most at risk are Hispanics, who made up the majority of the cases the AP found.

“The more the system becomes confused, the more U.S. citizens will be wrongfully detained and wrongfully removed,” said Bruce Einhorn, a retired immigration judge who now teaches at Pepperdine Law School. “They are the symptom of a larger problem in the detention system. … Nothing could be more regrettable than the removal of our fellow citizens.”

The full article is pretty shocking and worth the read. Like I have said time and time again, the broken immigration system does not just effect immigrants, it effects all of us.

State and Local Roundup

states

CA: Group: Detained Immigrants Kept in Squalid Basement: Immigrants held by the federal government are being detained in a squalid basement where conditions are foul-smelling and dirty, a civil rights group said in a lawsuit.

WA: Seattle Raid Raises Questions About Shift in Enforcement: The disclosure Wednesday that illegal immigrants in Seattle were given permission to work in the country has triggered alarms on Capitol Hill that the Obama administration is making a fundamental shift in the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

NM: Roswell Hispanics Claim Police Racial Profiling: Roswell residents’ complaints about racial profiling of Hispanics by police officers have prompted a state advocacy group to request intervention from the U.S. Justice Department and the state attorney general’s office.

GA: Senate Bill Links Road Money to Immigration Status: Local governments that don’t check to make sure they are not hiring illegal immigrants could lose state money for building roads, under legislation that passed the Senate on Wednesday.

Another Death in Detention

jail

It seems like the stories of inadequate healthcare for immigrant detainees never cease. Last week, there was a report of yet another immigrant death in Detention, this time in Colombus, Georgia.

Roberto Martinez Medina, a 39-year-old Mexican national being held on immigration violations passed away at the St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia, of apparent natural causes. An autopsy will be performed.

ICE officials have notified Martinez’s next of kin and the Mexican consulate of his passing. In addition, consistent with ICE protocol, the appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies have been notified.

For more on the neglect faced by immigrant detainees, check out RaceWire’s most recent analysis of Health in Detention.  Here’s a brief synopsis:

Part of the problem is that the mission of ICE’s Division of Immigration Health Services isn’t really to ensure that all detainees receive the care they need, but rather, to keep people essentially well enough to be kicked out of the country before they die. (Though occasionally, the process gets a little mixed up.)

I think that pretty much sums it up. My heart goes out to the Martinez Medina family.

Reports Questions Success of 287(g) Program

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.

287g

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.

Two New Immigration Appointees

olavarria1On 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.

Enforcement Gone Bad

ice-raid

There has been so much published recently about the wrong turn taken by the Bush administration’s approach to immigration enforcement. Reports from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Migration Policy Institute have been especially damning. On Sunday, the NY Times ran an editorial reiterating that our immigration system is broken and that comprehensive reform is needed now more than ever. Here is an excerpt:

A report last week from the Pew Hispanic Center laid bare some striking results of that campaign. It found that Latinos now make up 40 percent of those sentenced in federal courts, even though they are only about 13 percent of the adult population. They accounted for one-third of federal prison inmates in 2007.

The numbers might suggest we are besieged by immigrant criminals. But of all the noncitizen Latinos sentenced last year, the vast majority — 81 percent — were convicted for unlawfully entering or remaining in the country, neither of which is a criminal offense.

The country is filling the federal courts and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It is diverting immense law-enforcement resources from pursuing serious criminals — violent thugs, financial scammers — to an immense, self-defeating campaign to hunt down … workers.

The Pew report follows news this month that even as a federal program to hunt immigrant fugitives saw its budget soar — to $218 million last year from $9 million in 2003 — its mission went astray. According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, of the 72,000 people arrested through last February, 73 percent had no criminal record. Border Patrol agents in California and Maryland, meanwhile, tell of pressure to arrest workers at day-labor corners and convenience stores to meet quotas.

The country needs to control its borders. It needs to rebuild an effective immigration system and thwart employers who cheat it. It needs to bring the undocumented forward and make citizen taxpayers of them.