Tag Archives: immigration raid

Who is in charge at Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

Much has been said about the lip-service that immigration reform has been given from the Obama administration and members of Congress. The continued pledges of support don’t mean anything in the face of increased deportations. The administration and the Department of Homeland Security have stated various times that deportation and enforcement practices are being aimed only at undocumented immigrants with a criminal record.

However, on March 18th:

John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, stated that his agency would be ramping up enforcement efforts against undocumented immigrants with no criminal records. Morton’s statement was in response to pressure from Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Hal Rogers, (R-KY).

Also, on March 10th, while grassroots leaders were meeting with President Obama at the White House and hearing (yet again) his pledge of support for the cause, there was a workplace raid in Annapolis, MD where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained 29 workers.

Talk about hypocrisy.

Then, Saturday, a story dropped in the Washington Post exposing that ICE  has issued quotas as incentives to round up and deport even more undocumented immigration without criminal records.

From Immigration Impact:

The memo stated that ICE had set a quota of 400,000 deportations for the year without regard to whether those individuals were criminals or not, and laid out strategies for doing so. In other words, it’s not about keeping us safe, it’s about achieving big numbers.

So, while families continue to suffer and communities are destroyed, ICE is trying to make themselves look good with the ‘enforcement-only, deport ’em all’ crowd.

Excuse me, but where are you Mr. Obama?

Yesterday the Reform Immigration For America campaign released a statement calling for accountability.

This is directly at odds with statements from the President and Secretary Napolitano whose purported enforcement and security goals are to focus deportation efforts on dangerous or violent criminals.  To explain the contradiction, an agency spokesman indicated that Chaparro’s memo was “inconsistent” with the administration’s point of view and inconsistent with Secretary Napolitano.  Adding to the disorder, Chapparro later issued a ‘clarifying’ memo that neither rescinded nor abandoned the controversial and ‘inconsistent’ quota system he enumerated in his memo to field.

Which is it?  Is there a quota system or not? Who is actually in charge at ICE? Whose word is to be believed?

Today, grassroots groups are gathering for a press conference to call out the administration on these inconsistencies and seeming lack of leadership.

Until we have comprehensive immigration reform, ICE is going to be saddled with an enormous list of targets, and many people watching to see how they’re going to tackle it. If they want big numbers, they can achieve big numbers. But that won’t make us any safer or make the system any better. In any case the Administration and ICE have to figure out what their enforcement strategy is, articulate it clearly and consistently, and resist the urge to change it on a dime to please “enforcement-only” types who will never support comprehensive reform. (via Immigration Impact)

In short: get it together, guys. Stop playing politics with people’s lives and start working to solve problems. After all, isn’t that what you were put in office to do?

VIDEO: In the Shadow of the Raid

“In the Shadow of the Raid” is a documentary film that explores the devastating effects of the May 2008 immigration raid at the kosher meatpacking plant Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa. If you’re a follower of this blog, you know that Guatemala is very close to my heart and watching the footage in the trailer below is all-too familiar for me.

The documentary, which I definitely want to see, will be premiering at the Morelia International Film Festival, in Mexico between Oct. 3 and Oct. 11. This is the type of film that can change hearts and minds about the issue of immigration. Most people in this country view the issue as purely domestic – they can only see our side of the border. I cannot stress enough how important the international perspective is in this debate.

One of the biggest lessons I learned during my time in Guatemala was that decisions we make here, policy we put into action and priorities we create for our country, are felt in a very real and direct way in countries like Guatemala. We are not separate, but interconnected. And the sooner we realize this and take responsibility for our part in this global community, the better.

For more on the documentary, visit IntheShadowoftheRaid.com

Immigrants’ rights violated in Connecticut Raid

ICE raid

I’ve written a lot about raids in the past year – from Postville to Laurel, we’ve seen how the enforcement-only approach of the Bush era has torn apart communities and violated basic civil and human rights.

Last week, in a rare moment of justice, an immigration court Judge ruled that immigrants’ rights were violated during the raid on New Haven, Connecticut in 2007. From the AP:

Immigration Judge Michael Straus, in decisions last week, said the ICE agents went into the immigrants’ homes without warrants, probable cause or their consent, and he put a stop to deportation proceedings against the four defendants, whose names were not released. ICE officials claim all four are from Mexico, but all four cited their Fifth Amendment rights in refusing to say what country they are from.

Two of the four immigrants lived in one home, and two lived in a second home. They said in affidavits that agents barged into both homes after residents had opened their doors only a little. The agents went into both homes looking for specific illegal immigrants on a “target list,” who weren’t found, court documents say.

Let’s hope the ruling is a sign of things to come.

FIRM Spotlight: OneAmerica – Helping Families Affected by the Bellingham Raid


On February 24th, in Bellingham, WA an engine remanufacturing plant was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 28 undocumented workers were arrested. Janet Napolitano has since called for an investigation into the raid and it has become clear that ICE conducted the action without the knowledge or consent of the new Secretary. Regardless of the many political implications of the raid, the hard reality is that a community has been ripped apart and local organizations and community members are left to pick up the pieces.

Our partners at OneAmerica have been doing great work, along with local community groups in the Bellingham area.

Local groups, Community to Community Development and the Whatcom Community Foundation have set up a special fund called Los Niños Bellingham to solicit donations from individuals or foundations to help provide support for rent, food, clothing and other essential and basic needs of the families who have been affected. To donate, click here.

These groups will also be holding a fundraiser during today’s Cesar Chavez day at the Oregon State Capitol.

In other encouraging news, last week, the remaining 13 detainees who were still in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, were released without having to pay bond. This is a wonderful result and extremely unusual. The detainees have been reunited with their families, but OneAmerica is not yet clear about how long they will be able to stay in the country or what is expected in return for their freedom. There are concerns over y reports from family members who have been receiving phone calls and visits from ICE officers to their homes.

The day after the release of the remaining detainees, OneAmerica met with U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and at least 10 of the individuals who were detained during the raid.  Detainees discussed their tremendous pain and suffering; many have lost their apartments and homes, do not have enough money to feed their children and  have children or parents who are legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens and do not know what their future holds. Rep. Larsen re-committed himself to comprehensive immigration reform, recognizing that these workers should not be punished for working, and stressing the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

We are proud of the great work being done by OneAmerica and their local partners on the ground in Washington.

ACTION: Day of Remembrance for Postville

Below is an action being organized by St. Bridget’s Church, the first responders on the frontlines of the raid in Postville, Iowa. Its hard to believe that we are approaching the one year anniversary of that day.

I remember listening to Sister Mary McCauley of St. Bridget’s speak out about the destruction brought by the raid. It seems only fitting that she is organizing this action to remember the event and to call for an end to the raids.

A Call for Nationwide Awareness and Commemoration

of the Postville, Iowa Immigration Raid

May 12, 2009

Tuesday, May 12 marks the first anniversary of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid on Postville, Iowa.

To stand in solidarity with the 389 people who were detained and their families, a nationwide day of remembrance has been declared to promote awareness of the devastating effects of raids.

The prayer vigil and walk to commemorate the event will be held as follows:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

3:30 p.m. – Gather at St. Bridget’s Church, 141 W Williams St, Postville, Iowa

4:00 p.m. – Prayer Vigil and Remembrance

5:00 p.m. – Solidarity Walk to Agriprocessors

The event is a unified call for comprehensive immigration reform, just labor practices, family unity and an end to raids.

Invitations will be sent throughout the country to political and faith leaders, social justice advocacy groups, and all who offered assistance to those affected by the raid, requesting their presence in body or spirit on the day of the event.

On this nationwide day of remembrance and solidarity,

  1. We urge faith communities of all denominations to sound a call for justice, e.g., ringing of church bells or blowing of the shofar at 10:00 a.m., the time the raid began.
  2. Text of the prayer vigil and remembrance will be available for adaptation for local use after April 15 at www.postvillestbridget.org.
  3. Individuals and towns are encouraged to don red ribbons as in Postville on the day of the raid.

Media Contact: Sister Mary McCauley, BVM

Email: mmccauley@bvmcong.org

Phone: 563.581.6877

Prayer Vigil text available after April 15 at www.postvillestbridget.org

Who’s Running Immigration?

Today’s New York Times has a powerful editorial on immigraton enforcement under the Obama administration. Using the exmaples of Saturday’s peaceful protest against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and last week’s unexpected immigration raid in Bellingham, WA, the piece picks apart the notion that Bush-era enforcement-only tactics can somehow solve the immigration issue in this country.

An excerpt:

Americans who might applaud any crackdown on illegal immigrants, particularly in a recession, should know that scattershot raids and rampaging sheriffs are not the answer. The idea that enforcement alone will eliminate the underground economy is a great delusion. It runs up against the impossible arithmetic of mass expulsion — no conceivable regime of raids will wrench 12 million illegal immigrants from their jobs and homes.

The country is not a safer or better place because one more business and two dozen more families are torn apart outside Seattle or because Sheriff Arpaio has much of Maricopa County terrified. The system under which illegal immigrants labor, without hope of assimilation, is not any less broken. A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that federal oversight of the 287(g) program has been sorely lacking.

So, a question: Are Mr. Obama and Ms. Napolitano in charge or not? Let them show it by ending the raids and Sheriff Arpaio’s abuses. Something has to be done about immigration, but it has to be smarter than this.

To read the full article click here.

Obama Can’t Afford to Ignore Immigration


While I think that we proved this last week with our quick and forceful response to the immigration raid in Bellingham, today’s Herald Tribune gives more reasoning behind why Obama must address comprehensive immigration reform this year.

An excerpt:

Still, the notion that immigration can be finessed is a mirage. The problem will only get worse, and so will the politics. Obama, 47, a Democrat, would have to renege on his campaign promise to push a major immigration overhaul along the lines of the Kennedy-McCain measure in his first year.

The agriculture, food service and construction industries rely on immigrants. They are going through down times, but they’ll need more immigrants when they bounce back.

That’s true of the overall economy, says Tamar Jacoby, a scholar who favors an overhaul of the immigration system.

“Immigration reform may be harder in the middle of a recession, to make the case that we need more workers,” Jacoby says. “But the only way out of a recession is to grow out of it, and we need workers to do that.”

Even with the drop in the number of illegal immigrants – there are still an estimated 11.5 million in the country, or about 4 percent of the population – the social tensions are worsening. Highly publicized raids are disrupting communities and generating furious resentment among Hispanics.

Click here to read the full article. All signs are pointing to Comprehensive Immigration Reform hitting the floor THIS year. Communities, advocates, families and immigrants across the country will be ready to rally around legislation of Just and Humane reform.

UPDATE: Obama Reaffirms Commitment to Immigration Reform after Last Week’s Raid

Last Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided an engine remanufacturing plant in Bellingham, Washington, ignited a quick and fierce outcry from immigration rights advocates and communities across the country. We responded and the administration listened.

The day after the Raid, after thousands of calls into the White House and meetings on the Hill, Janet Napolitano called for an investigation into the raid.

Napolitano told lawmakers during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that she did not know about the raid before it happened and was briefed on it early Wednesday morning. She has asked U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which arrested 28 illegal immigrants in the raid, for answers.

“I want to get to the bottom of this as well,” she said. She said work-site enforcement needs to be focused on the employers.


The White House has now also responded through spokesman Nick Shapiro:

“Secretary Napolitano is conducting a thorough review of ICE, including enforcement,” Mr. Shapiro said. “The president believes we must respect due process and our best values as we enforce the law. The real answer to our broken immigration system is to fix it. The president has said that we will start the immigration reform debate this year, and this continues to be the plan.”

There you have it folks. We yelled and the administration answered. It looks like immigration will be on the agenda this year. Lets hope Obama keeps his promise to get the ball rolling on Comprehensive Reform; because if he doesn’t, we will be here to keep up the pressure!

Cocktails and Criticism – Deepak Bhargava Reacts to the Washington state Raid

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, FIRM’s parent organization, has taken to the Center’s blog today, to discuss the ICE raid in Bellingham, Washington.

Last week, I had the honor of representing CCC at a cocktail party for progressive leaders at the White House with the President and First Lady. Honestly, I was pretty excited. I even bought a new tie. I had a chance to talk to the President about immigration reform, and got very encouraging responses about changing the way immigration enforcement happens and about prospects for immigration reform this year.

I was then taken aback when I learned this week about an immigration raid in Bellingham, WA that resulted in 25 immigrants being shackled and detained. The call from Marissa Graciosa, who leads our immigration work at CCC, came in close to 10 pm, just as the President was wrapping up his brilliant address to the Congress and the country. Working with our allies at One America in Washington state who are fiercely leading the response on the ground, grassroots groups around the country that are part of the FIRM network, the National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice, the National Council of La Raza and many others we sprung into action.

We called everyone we know at the White House and asked what the hell was going on and pressed specifically for a public response within 24 hours clarifying that the Administration does in fact intend to shift its approach on enforcement. We reached out to the press and the Hill which also began to ask hard questions. Hundreds of calls went into the White House. We criticized the Administration publicly, for the first time, literally a week after the cocktail party!

The result? DHS announced an investigation of the Bellingham raid within 24 hours –and Secretary Napolitano told Congress she didn’t know the raid was happening and that the Administration was looking to take enforcement in a different direction –away from workplace raids to focusing on unscrupulous employers. Now, that is change we can believe in.

What lessons might we draw from this whole experience? First, we are not agents of the Obama Administration – or any other politician. Our highest commitment as progressives is to the most vulnerable people in our society, and being progressive means nothing at all if it doesn’t mean standing up for and with them. Second, we shouldn’t expect to get change that we don’t help to make happen. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, there is not progress without agitation. Third, if we take the view that the Administration is potentially an ally – rather than reflexively assuming bad intent — and we are clear and specific about what we want to see happen, we can in fact make real progress by working together. I am heartened by what this Administration has gotten done for low-income people in an incredibly short period of time through the recovery bill and SCHIP legislation – and the speed of their response to our concerns about this tragic raid further confirms their sincere commitment to change.

I am also heartened that the President is leading a national conversation on shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – two critical elements of the community values that are at the center of all the work to which we community organizers are passionately committed.

So, maybe cocktails and criticism – in the context of a respectful and real relationship that grows and develops over time — can go together and deliver results.

Deepak Bhargava is Executive Director of the Center for Community Change

6 Raid Victims Will Pursue Legal Claims Against ICE

As most of you know, the power exercised by Immigration and Customs Enforcement during home and workplace raids has gone dangerously unchecked in the past few years. There has been little to no accountability placed on the agency and it is rare that legal avenues are pursued by victims of ICE’s unjust actions.


However, yesterday an immigration judge ruled that 6 people who were detained during an ICE sweep in New Haven and North Haven, CT in 2007 will be allowing to bring their claims of constitutional violations to court.

Lawyers at the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale University are seeking to suppress evidence obtained by ICE when it arrested a total of 32 people in New Haven and North Haven in June 2007.

They allege that the officers conducted illegal searches and seizures, detained the 32 without reasonable suspicion and arrested them without probable cause.

Let’s hope that this marks a new era of accountability for ICE. The burden in this case is now on them to prove that their actions were both legal and justifiable. Maybe we will see more of these types of cases cropping up in the near future?