Frustration Mounts as DHS Continues and Expands Bush-Era Immigration Enforcement Strategies

For Immediate Release

Americas Voice
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Paco Fabián
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Frustration Mounts as DHS Continues and Expands Bush-Era Immigration Enforcement Strategies

Misguided Enforcement Policies Stir Backlash, Demand for Real Comprehensive Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON - On
the heels of several reports critical of the Department of Homeland
Security’s enforcement and detention policies, grassroots advocates for
immigration reform took to the streets today to protest the
continuation and expansion of ineffective Bush-era tactics.  Their
protests echo the findings of credible reports and the recommendations
of law enforcement officials, all of whom are calling on DHS to make
significant changes in policy and strategy.

In New York today, DHS Secretary
Janet Napolitano was met by protesters from the New York Immigration
Coalition and allied organizations who demanded an investigation of
flagrant abuses by immigration agents in residential raids carried out
under the Bush Administration.  This call is based on a recently
released public study
of the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s home raid
operations by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva
University. 

The report found that immigration
agents engaged in widespread constitutional violations over the course
of several years.  Some of the agents’ most egregious violations include entering and searching homes without legal authority,
and seizing people without any basis other than their racial or ethnic
appearance or limited English proficiency.   In response to the Cardozo
report, whose findings were endorsed by leading law enforcement
officials, DHS said only the following in an e-mail to the New York Times:
"The men and women of I.C.E. are sworn to uphold the laws of our
nation.  We do so professionally, humanely and with an acute awareness
with the impact enforcement has on the individuals we encounter. While
I.C.E. prioritizes our efforts by targeting fugitives who have
demonstrated a threat to national security or public safety, we have a
clear mandate to pursue all immigration fugitives.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, workers
and advocates will be marching today to the downtown federal building
to ask Secretary Napolitano to stop the expansion of the 287(g) program
that allows local law enforcement to become de facto immigration
agents, halt the new I-9 audits recently announced by DHS, and suspend
the expansion of the error-prone E-Verify program.  With respect to the
287g program, the highly-regarded Police Foundation
has called for fundamental reforms, arguing that "local law enforcement
executives say civil immigration enforcement by local police undermines
their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases
their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in our
communities.”  The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) also recently raised serious questions about the 287(g) program, and called for Congress and the White House to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and soon.

Yesterday, the National Immigration Law Center and allied organizations released a scathing report on DHS’ current management of immigration jails.  According to today’s New York Times, the Obama Administration
is now refusing to make standards regarding immigration detention
conditions legally enforceable.  In the story, Nina Bernstein writes:
“The decision, contained in a six-page letter received by the
plaintiffs this week, disappointed and angered immigration advocacy
organizations around the country. They pointed to a stream of newly
available documents that underscore the government’s failure to enforce
minimum standards it set in 2000, including those concerning detainees’
access to basic health care, telephones and lawyers, even as the number
of people detained has soared to more than 400,000 a year.”

Tomorrow, Senators Robert Menendez
(D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will introduce two bills that
begin to correct some of these excesses crafted during the Bush years
and continued under Secretary Napolitano.    

“People on the ground are becoming
increasingly frustrated with DHS, and with good reason,” said Frank
Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.  “Candidate Obama
promised a new approach to immigration policy and highly energized
Latino and immigrant voters, who turned out for him in record numbers.
 But recent developments suggest a gap between the President’s promises
of significant change and DHS’s continuation of ineffective and
counterproductive Bush-era policies.” 

Sharry added, “For example, DHS
recently announced the expansion of 287(g) program that encourages
local police involvement in immigration enforcement, and while new
regulations promise change, the fact is that Sheriff Joe Arpaio of
Maricopa County in Arizona – the Bull Connor of our generation – still
operates under the 287(g) umbrella as he conducts controversial sweeps
of Latino neighborhoods.  When ICE agents are accused in a carefully
documented study of flouting basic constitutional protections by
kicking down doors, running up arrest totals and terrorizing Latino
families and communities in the bargain, the DHS response is a press
release stating that ‘our agents uphold the law.’  And when DHS is
presented with a well-researched report on systemic problems in the
nation’s monstrous detention system, the agency’s response is to refuse
to set rules that are legally enforceable.  Taken together, these
decisions threaten to offend many voters who turned out last November
in hopes of achieving significant changes in our nation’s dysfunctional
immigration system.” 

“Secretary Napolitano has made some
important corrections to Bush-era policies in the areas of workplace
raids and enforcement priorities, and deserves credit for doing so. 
But she needs to pay attention to the growing chorus of voices – from
advocates to researchers to law enforcement professionals – that are
calling for reform of current enforcement strategies and swift action
on comprehensive immigration reform,” said Sharry. “Not doing so could
carry a heavy political cost for the Administration.”

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