Heightened immigration enforcement, best represented by the rising number of immigration raids
across the country, is putting a strain on some of the nation’s
over-crowded jails and courts. To allievate the pressure, the
Department of Homeland Security launched a program
Heightened immigration enforcement, best represented by the rising number of immigration raids across the country, is putting a strain on some of the nation’s over-crowded jails and courts. To allievate the pressure, the Department of Homeland Security launched a program in five cities yesterday — Chicago included — encouraging undocumented workers to turn themselves in to their nearest federal immigration office. Nationwide, no one "took advantage" of the program on its first day.
Here is the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights' response to this new initiative:
[Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is right to think that more raids and bigger prisons are not the answer. They are wrong, however, to think that immigrant men and women who have risked everything to struggle to make a life for their families here will just pack up and leave because they were targeted by an ad in the paper.
They are also mistaken if they think that bogus offers like these will even temporarily provide relief for our dysfunctional immigration system. While they may seek to distract people from the real problems we face, these types of "solutions" speak for themselves: they show just how dangerously out-of-touch these agencies have become, even with so much at stake.
Immigrant rights advocates have also voiced concerns about a separate effort to speed up the deportation process. According to the National Immigrant Justice Center, 31,000 immigrants agreed to waive their right to a court hearing by signing fast-tracked deportation orders last year -- up from 5,500 in 2004. Sixteen percent were signed in Chicago, making it the jurisdiction with the second-largest number of stipulated orders.
Immigration authorities convince the detainees to sign away their due process by arguing it will spare them time in the often reprehensible detention centers. But those who sign the orders are barred from returning to the United States for 10 years without special permission. That’s a significant risk when one considers many workers have lived in America for years, even starting families of their own. Worse still, some immigrant advocates and lawyers worry that detainees are being rushed out of the country without a firm understanding of the process.
In today's Tribune, Rep. Luis Gutierrez joined fellow California congressmen Joe Baca in decrying ICE raids more broadly, calling on President Bush to cease the enforcement measures they call "profoundly inexcusable."
Almost two years to the day before the administration sent 900 ICE agents to storm Agriprocessors, President George W. Bush appeared before the American people and declared: "We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time."
Postville has plainly shown that we are neither of those things. We are not "lawful" when we interrupt investigations spearheaded by our own Department of Labor. We are not lawful when we implement fear tactics and deportation-only policies simply to score cheap political points with conservative pundits. We are not lawful when we railroad men and women through the judicial process, without adequate representation or a full understanding of their rights.
For more on the travails of “immigration enforcement,” check out our post from last week on the Center for Immigration Studies’ biased report.