Bush Immigration Enforcement Tactics Haunt the Obama Era

Photo by peasp.

On Tuesday ICE raided the Yamato Engine Specialists plant in Bellingham, Washington.   The ICE agents arrested 28 people – 25 men and 3 women – for allegedly using fake Social Security documents to gain employment.  It was the first worksite raid since President Obama took office.  ICE claims the raid was the result of an ongoing investigation into the worksite, apparently after two “gang members” led agents to begin the investigation.

The next day, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared at a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee and stated she had been unaware of the raid before it happened and ordered a review of the action.  Last month Napolitano had issued a directive ordering an internal review of multiple immigration enforcement initiatives within DHS.  While the report to Napolitano was due on February 20, it has not been made public.

The raid came as a surprise to immigrant advocates because both Napolitano and Obama have signaled that immigration enforcement should be focused on employers that violate immigration laws and exploit workers, not on the employees.  Just last week, Obama appeared on Spanish language radio stations repeating his call to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

While Napolitano was on Capitol Hill, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case surrounding the federal government’s interpretation of laws pertaining to identity theft.  Rather than deporting undocumented workers caught up in raids on immigration charges, the Bush Administration had been slapping them with criminal charges and sentencing them to additional prison time if they had used the identity documents belonging to real people. After the large raid in Postville, Iowa, prosecutors used the criminal identity theft charges to pressure the immigrants both to plead guilty to lesser charges of document fraud and to agree to summary deportation, waiving their immigration rights – which most of the immigrants did.   Prof. Erik Camayd-Freixas, who served as a court interpreter in Iowa, later publicly stated that the workers were unaware that they were using documents belonging to other people.  Early reports indicate that the Supreme Court appears poised to rule against the government’s broad interpretation of the identity theft law.

The Bellingham raid also came at a time when the local sheriff’s office is considering entering into a partnership with the Border Patrol along the northern border.   Under “Operation Stonegarden” the sheriff’s office would offer assistance to the Border Patrol in exchange for money and equipment.  Such partnerships between federal immigration agents and local police agencies have been the topic of much controversy, with law enforcement officials and community members both claiming they funnel resources away from other crime-solving missions and erode the trust between police and the immigrant community leaving local communities less safe.

To sum up, Tuesday’s raid brings up a whole host of issues plaguing DHS and the way our immigration laws are currently being enforced.  Worksite raids, house-to-house raids, criminal prosecutions, and local police enforcement of federal immigration laws have all had a harmful impact on American families and communities and have raised civil rights concerns.  They have cost the government billions of dollars and they haven’t been very effective.  It is time for the new Administration to ensure a clean break from the deportation-only policies that have been so prevalent for years and move toward comprehensive immigration reform and smart enforcement policies that grow our economy and make us all safer.

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  • jean robert lafortune


    Please share this article with your viewers….Thanks,

    joe gourgue

  • Max

    I’m an immigrant myself. Green card holder. I played by the rules, got LPR last year. For all the shortcoming of the disgraced Bush administration, identity theft is a serious crime and if charges were brought against illegal immigrants because a serious crime was committed, why defending them?

    one thing is entering and working illegally. not right, but not a tremendous crime. another thing is committing a felony stealing someone identity. I guess you undermine the just cause for immigration reform by defending criminals.

  • With respect to the manner in which the U.S. government has enforced U.S. immigration laws recently and how that has negatively impacted many families, I would like to simply point out that the government also has an obligation to protect and promote the family unit. Certain provisions of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the United States signed on October 5, 1977, and ratified on June 8, 1992, spell out such an obligation.

    The preamble to the ICCPR affirms “the inherent dignity of the human person” and recognizes “the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms . . . .” Article 2 of the ICCPR provides also:

    1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

    Article 23 of the ICCPR provides:

    1. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

    2. The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized. (Bold, underline, emphasis and highlight added.)

    In A Blueprint for New Beginnings: A Responsible Budget for America’s Priorities, Executive Office of the President of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington 2001 (Released February 28, 2001), former-President George W. Bush stated:

    Certainly, no law can make people love one another. Places of worship, faith-based organizations, and other value-shaping groups do the hard work of changing hearts and minds. Government should, however, wherever possible, cultivate a climate that helps families, and the individuals and groups that support them.

    I understand the importance of enforcing U.S. immigration laws. However, let’s not forgot about the family unit, particularly when we are NOT dealing with criminals.

  • Michael R Steinberg

    How can we make these raids more cost-effective?

  • I also encourage anyone who is tired of the same failed policies and hoping for real “change we can believe in” to call your congresspersons and the President in Washington DC. Familes have been and are being torn apart, largely because the racist minority controls the message. Tell your congresspersons what you already know: There is no divide between lawful presence or no. Most families have a mix, with lawful entry followed by overstay, entry without inspection, residency, citizenship, and more. Taking one family member out of the mix affects everyone, even if only citizens can vote.

  • algasema

    The raids must stop. We must put an end to the takeover of America’s immigration system by a vocal, powerful, well-financed white supremacist movement.

  • Tim Ho

    Perhaps the prose chosen belays predisposition in reporting the news. Those arrested in Iowa were not “immigrants” they were migrants.
    The lawyer worried about familes ought know the long standing INS policy that kept family groups together either Released to Run or housed together. Sometimes there is a penalty to pay for violating the law.
    Please have the lawyers explain how the Customized Agency will be able to prosecute cases of knowingly hiring, transporting, housing, etc illegal aliens if the Agents are not allowed to arrest/interview those individuals?
    Doris Meisner revisited …. no arrests allowed..and then the brown stuff may fly everywhere perhaps just as it happened to Bush when he attempted semi-rational migration reform.

  • Max:

    Please do not misunderstand me. I am not defending the use of fraudulent documents or the use of other individuals’ identity documents. I simply mean to say that I see real-life scenarios where use of fraudulent documents/identity theft is NOT at issue, yet U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement pursues removal proceedings against an individual for whom, for example, a valid, good-faith, family-based case is already PENDING before U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. There are several U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement memos dealing with prosecutorial discretion, yet it seems that at the local level, ICE officers ignore these memos.

  • As an immigration attorney, I spend my days here in Detroit fighting bad decisions come to by ICE and its District Counsels; I am no fan of either. But your use of a picture of a bunch of “ghosts” in this context appears to be an underhanded way of comparing immigration officers to Klansmen. That leave a bad taste in the mouth. Please remove this picture.

  • admin

    Hi Richard,
    The picture is not meant to convey that at all. In fact, it didn’t even occur to us that it would be interpreted that way. If we get more complaints, I’ll change the photo. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • I have to agree with Richard Kent Esq. When I first saw your picture of the ghosts, I suspected this article had something to do with the KKK. How you failed to see this is a mystery to me.

  • John Crow

    Interesting that ICE remains fixated on workers and not their employers, an emphasis of the previous Administration and we were led to believe change was on the way. ICE didn’t get the message and it’s overdue: employers benefit from engaging the services of unauthorized workers — they commonly underpay wages and short-change “fringe” benefits. IRCA was promoted as an enforcement law that looked at clamping down on employers. Even its authors, Sen Simpson and Congressman Mazzoli, did not envision policing the then 8 million unauthorized workers among us. Now with the workforce grown since IRCA, we are still not going to go after the workers when it is the employers that ought to know better, and when they fail to get the message, to fine them of their illegally gotten gains.

  • marie


  • steve

    I think it’s a photo of ghosts, not klansmen. That goes with the idea of “haunts.”

  • Malby

    I think that people in other countries should obey our laws if they want to come here. And how do you focus on bad employers but not address the pople who entered and worked here illegally and bought forged documents? BTW, these were 28 jobs that Americans are more than willing to do. And the Klan reference was obvious. One enforcement action and we have mass hysteria. In what other area do people commit crimes and successfully oppose any meaningful enforcement? What about the decades of no enforcement? What about the 15-20 million people living here illegally?

  • Malby

    “With respect to the manner in which the U.S. government has enforced U.S. immigration laws recently and how that has negatively impacted many families, I would like to simply point out that the government also has an obligation to protect and promote the family unit.” If people choose to come here illegally, and then have families, they have caused the problem for their families. It is easily resolved: deport the illegal immigrant and he or she can take his or her children with him or her. No one is “breaking up” families. Illegal immigrants are trying to play “gotcha”: see, I had a baby, you can’t deport me. If this happened only occasionally, perhaps it would make sense to allow them to stay here. but when you’re talking about 15 million people having children while here illegally, you have a phenomenon that is undermining our immigration laws.

  • Chris


    Those immigration laws you speak of are out-dated by 20 years and it’s ludicrous to think that we can deport our way out of the problem by removing 12 million (15-20 million according to your calculations) undocumented immigrants.

    No one is playing “gotcha.” That sort of irrational paranoia and fear-mongering is what drives the restrictionist agenda and continues to tarnish the public debate.

  • Julio

    I would like to make three points. First, the photo at the head of this article cannot possibly be confused with the infamous garb of the KKK. Also, look closely, these are trick or treaters in ghost garb.

    Second point: The only point to the ICE raids is to instill fear. If they plan these raids based on months of investigation then they certainly can find other means of arresting these individuals.

    Third point: The only feasible solution to the so called illegal immigrant problem is to “legalize” all 20 million undocumented people in our country – and secure the border. It is the only moral thing to do.

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