In contrast to my post yesterday about a concerning report from the Brookings Institute, I'd like to direct your attention to some more thoughtful and humane research and advocacy by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR).
NNIRR just published a report, "Guilty By Immigration Status: A Report on U.S. Violations of the Rights of Immigrant Families, Workers, and Communities in 2008." This report examines how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration enforcement activities have, not infrequently, violated the human and civil rights of immigrants, their families, and their communities. People swept up in this system are not afforded due process, and those who perpetuate this system are not held accountable for their actions.
This report is accompanied by NNIRR's "2008 Chronology of ICE Raids," which documents the indiscriminate raids that ICE has carried out in worksites and homes over the past year. NNIRR has also put out an excellent resource called the "100 Stories Project," a collection of personal stories of individuals directly affected by ICE raids and other enforcement activities. This project sheds light on an issue that is too often overlooked or dismissed in the broader conversation on comprehensive immigration reform.
One of the stories that I was most struck by:
Annapolis, MD-- Over 100 ICE and county police raid painting company and residences, including U.S. citizens and children (June 30, 2008)
75 heavily armed ICE agents, along with 50 county police officers, raided the company offices of Annapolis Painting Services, Inc and fifteen single-family homes, resulting in the arrest of 51 workers on administrative immigration violations. Agents seized five bank accounts, eleven vehicles and homes as part of a “criminal investigation” into the hiring and harboring of undocumented immigrant workers. However, the company's owners were not arrested. Families of detainees testified to the damage caused by ICE agents who raided their homes, including broken doors and furniture. Veronica Ramos sobbed and her three young children hid under their beds in fear as ICE agents handcuffed and arrested their father, Eduardo Delgado. In another home, ICE agents handcuffed a U.S. citizen and forced him to kneel in front of his four-year-old daughter, while they searched for two others who allegedly worked at the painting.
The fundamental point is this: Immigration violations are civil offenses, not criminal offenses. The current DHS enforcement system wrongly criminalizes immigrants and terrorizes communities of color. In addition, this is an issue that affects everyone -- not just immigrants. Once you willingly put up with someone else's rights being taken away, you expose yourself to the possibility that one day soon, yours will be restricted as well.
The United States needs to shift away from the current system and toward a new system that prioritizes keeping communities safe and restoring dignity to all persons, regardless of immigration status.