The Obama administration this past week opted to vastly expand a George W. Bush program to run fingerprints through immigration scans in Houston, TX. In the past, only serious criminals were fingerprinted and screened for immigration conflicts. With this program though, even those accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes are fingerprinted and checked in the USCIS database. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/us/26secure.html?pagewanted=2&tntemail1=y&_r=1&emc=tnt)
Federal officials stated that the automatic fingerprint checks in Harris County resulted in the deportation of 94 people for felonies and 1,624 people accused of misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes. Cesar Espinosa of the immigrant advocacy group America for All said, “People are getting deported for even minor offenses like not having an ID or a driver’s license.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/us/26secure.html?pagewanted=2&tntemail1=y&_r=1&emc=tnt)
Another symptom of America’s flawed immigration enforcement was chronicled in a report released by the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law this past week. The Cardozo Justice Law Clinic partnered with several law enforcement experts like Nassau County’s police commissioner, to analyzing 700 arrest reports obtained from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] agency through Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] lawsuits.
In the home raids scrutinized by this report, the ICE agents acting without a search warrant were required to obtain consent. However, 86% of the home raids in Nassau and Suffolk counties, no consent was recorded as required by law. The report condemned the “cowboy mentality” that ran rampant throughout these raids: in Paterson, NJ, a nine-year-old legal citizen of Guatemalan descent was threatened at gunpoint while his legal resident mother was in the shower; in a Staten Island case, an immigration judge ruled that similar agents’ actions were an “egregious violation” of basic fairness; an email message exchanged between an ICE agent in Connecticut and a state trooper invited him to a set of raids scheduled for New Haven, stating, “We have 18 addresses – so it should be a fun time! Let me know if you guys can play!”
Such an abuse of power stems from having a system which criminalizes individuals merely suspected by their ethnicity of being guilty of a civil violation. The Cardozo report suggests that these ICE home raids should be “a tactic of last resort, reserved for high-priority targets,” and accompanied with a search warrant. The report also recommends that supervisors be on site and home raids videotaped. Lastly, the report states that agents should have to note why the initially seized or questioned any person, rather than merely waiting for the results afterwards [i.e. in law, “the end should not justify the means”]. Hopefully DHS Secretary Napolitano reads this insightful report and begins to deescalate the fear and violence perpetrated against our nation’s immigrant population through such negative programs. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/nyregion/22raids.html?emc=tnt&tntemail1=y)
As California worked around the clock to vote on a budget that would alleviate its 26 billion dollar deficit, they also passed an important public apology a long time coming. The California Legislature apologized for its states’ past persecution of Chinese immigrants who worked on the state’s railroads, farms, and gold mines. On Friday, the State Secretary released this public apology for the 19th and 20th century wrongs done to Chinese Americans. If only the United States as a whole would apologize for the xenophobic, nativist legislation it passed in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act which banned all Chinese-Americans, and later all Asian-Americans, from legally immigrating to the United States for some 60 years. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/us/23brfs-APOLOGYTOIMM_BRF.html?emc=tnt&tntemail1=y)
It is entirely possible that in 70 years, the United States will be uttering its own apologies to third and fourth-generation immigrants for the inhumane home raids and invasive fingerprint checks we are conducting now.
Tags: 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, America for All, Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, California, Cardozo Justice Law Clinic, Cesar Espinosa, DHS, FOIA, George W. Bush, Guatemala, Harris County, Houston, ICE, Napolitano, Nassau County, nativism, Obama, Suffolk, Texas, USCIS, xenophobia