Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Concerned? So Are We.

Shouldn't immigration quotas be a thing of the past, abandoned to the judgment of historians?

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn't think so.

This agency, which is part of Homeland Security, is responsible for enforcing immigration laws. But there's a catch. John Morton, the director of ICE, has stated repeatedly that ICE's goal is to track down and deport "dangerous criminals." Recently, it has become clear that Morton's statements are disconnected from the reality of immigration enforcement on the ground.

This internal ICE memo, leaked by the Washington Post, indicates that ICE is trying to arrest and detain as many people as possible - not just dangerous criminals - in order to meet quotas.

The explanation goes like this: Last year, ICE detained 387,000 people and this year the agency has received a budgetary increase. So, in order to justify the increase in funding, ICE has set a goal of detaining at least 400,000 people in 2010. (ICE later withdrew the memo but declined to offer a public explanation for why it had originally been issued.)

This is backwards reasoning. Taxpayers' money should not be wasted on expensive and ineffective enforcement programs. You can't deport your way into a reasonable immigration policy.

ICE has a serious and urgent question to answer. Who does the agency focus on - "dangerous criminals" or simply people who look "foreign"?

ICE should offer clarifications, immediately, on how the agency's goals align with its methods.

In addition, oversight of ICE's local enforcement programs should be established. Asking ICE to police itself would be unreasonable. Therefore, Congress should pass detention reform bills - S. 1549, S. 1550, and H.R. 1215 - which would ensure adequate protections for U.S. citizens, green card holders, and all who are unfairly punished by harsh and discriminatory ICE policies.

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