Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Raids Fail As Solution To Immigration Policy Vacuum

by Daniela Martinez Moreno
AFSC Special Projects Policy Fellow

Recent raids of homes in Long Island, New York by federal immigration agents received strong criticism from county officials and residents concerned about the harmful effects these tactics have on communities. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the arrests conducted by federal immigration officials under a national program known as Operation Community Shield target gang members and their associates. However, raids of the homes of U.S. citizens and arrests of individuals without gang associations or criminal records raised concerns and questions from elected officials including Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey, and Greenport Mayor David Nyce.

"This is un-American. We need to do something about immigration, but not this." said Tina Finne, a native of Greenport in Suffolk County, N.Y (NYT). In recent raids in Greenport, only 1 of the 11 men detained was suspected of gang affiliation, the New York Times reports. The rest of the individuals had no gang associations or criminal records. According to Greenport Mayor David Nyce, "the whole gang issue is something to keep the white majority scared about the Latino population, and to come in and bust as many people as they want."

County Officials Call for Federal Investigation of Home Raids
Leaders Claim Federal Agents Displayed "Inappropriate" Behavior and Posed Unnecessary Dangers to Local Police

Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence M. Mulvey and County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi called for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to conduct a federal investigation into the conduct of the ICE agents during the recent raids. On three occasions ICE officials failed to check the names and addresses of their arrest targets against the Nassau Police Department's Gang Intelligence Files. This resulted in the wrong homes raided, the officials wrote in a letter to Chertoff.

Immigration agents also mistakenly drew their guns on Nassau County police, according to Mulvey. "Tactically the operation was structured poorly," wrote Mulvey in a letter to Joseph A. Palmese, Resident Agent in Charge of ICE. "This, in my view, posed unnecessary dangers to all parties, including my members, who in fact were drawn upon by the agents," he wrote.
During a press conference officials noted that the raids, used Border Patrol personnel who were apparently not trained for this operation. Additionally, the list of those arrested was "not forthcoming" from ICE, said Mulvey. >To watch a video of the press conference click here.

Raids Lead to Knocks on the Doors of Residents and Citizens

Community members in Greenport and Nassau County were concerned that the immigration officers entered the homes of immigrants, residents and citizens without a warrant. For example, the Nassau home of Peggy Delarosa-Delgado, a U.S. citizen, was invaded by more than a dozen federal immigration agents after her 17-year-old son opened the door, the New York Times reported. Under the law, immigrant agents may only enter homes without a judicial warrant if the residents consent. >For Know Your Rights materials click here.

Focus Shifts to Enforcement

The New York raids relied on significant cooperation from local law enforcement units. However, Suozzi and Mulvey indicated that they would no longer cooperate with federal immigration officers unless they changed their tactics, reported the New York Times.

"The immigration laws of the United States should be enforced and I fully support the execution of lawfully issued arrest warrants in Nassau County, particularly for known gang members," Suozzi wrote in a letter to Chertoff. "I condemn, however, any tactical actions which cross the lines of legality and law enforcement best practices."

Last month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued Guidelines for Identifying Humanitarian Concerns among Administrative Arrestees When Conducting Worksite Enforcement Operations. ICE issued the guidelines as the result of discussions with Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Delahunt (D-MA), according to a Kennedy office press release. The discussions followed a massive raid and the arrests last March of more than 350 workers at the leather goods manufacturing plant Michael Bianco, Inc. in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Most of those who were detained were women from Central America. The arrestees claimed that their quick transfer to detention centers in Texas inhibited them from making better decisions with respect to the fate of the children they left behind. (AP).

On November 27, while upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by immigrants arrested during a factory raid in New Bedford, a federal appeals court criticized ICE for what it considered a "callous" raid that should serve as a "learning experience" in order to develop better ways of carrying out their responsibilities. (AP)

However, these guidelines could be interpreted by immigration agents as guiding principles, rather than a mandatory regulation. "In the context of immigration and deportation proceedings we are completely out of step with our societal values of protecting the best interests of our children," said attorney Joseph Hammell, who is surveying recent raids for the Urban Institute. (New York Times).

Congressional Inaction a Recurring Theme in Immigration Debate

The need for clear, concrete immigration reform thus becomes clear. Even the courts that ruled to uphold the New Bedford lawsuit highlighted the need for Congress to "speak clearly" and take action in order to fill the immigration policy vacuum, and allow undocumented individuals in the U.S. to exercise their rights. According to the judges, "it is Congress ... that has the responsibility of prescribing a framework for the vindication of those rights." (AP)

Raids such as the ones that took place in Greenport and Nassau do nothing to fix the broken immigration system in the U.S. Rather, they generate and exacerbate a climate of fear and anxiousness within all members of communities, whether immigrant or non-immigrant.

Steps You Can Take: Take action to stop ICE raids and the separation of families!

Stop ICE raids in Hartford, Connecticut
Rally on International Human Rights Day: Monday, 12/10 5pm
ICE Headquarters in Hartford - Gather at 4:30 p.m. in South Green Park (corner of Park and Main streets) Step off at 5 p.m. and march to the ICE headquarters, 450 Main St., for a rally
This will be a peaceful protest of the 21 arrests made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the Parkville neighborhood over the first week of November. Arrests of innocent working-people have nothing in common with a fair, humane immigration reform that recognizes the rights of immigrants to live and work in the U.S. For more information or to get involved, contact Frank O'Gorman of CT People of Faith at 860-841-5006 or or Kate Prendergast of Stop the Raids, Trinity College , at 610-209-9264 or Sponsors: Connecticut Federation of Educational & Professional Employees; American Friends Service Committee; Stop the Raids, Trinity College; Hartford Areas Rally Together; Hartford H.O.P.E.; Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice; Unidad Latina en Accion of New Haven; CT People of Faith; Latinos Against the War; Queers Without Borders; Campaign to Stop the ICE Raids in Danbury; Voluntown Peace Trust; CT Transadvocacy Coalition; Free People's Movement, as well as students and faculty from UConn, St. Joseph's College, Trinity, and CCSU.]