Immigration reform push coincides with move to more raids
Why do immigration reform protests always seem to provoke more raids? On March 21, 200,000 people rallied in Washington D.C. for immigration reform. The week before, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents swept restaurants in Maryland, a rare instance of workplace raids under the Obama administration.
The federal authorities say they were trying to break an exploitative hiring ring, but the impact on immigrant communities was predictable: the fear returned.
Add to the Maryland raids the the widespread though untrue rumor of immigration sweeps at Wal-Marts, and it’s fair to say the past month has been one of the most anxiety-inducing in recent memory for undocumented immigrants, their families, and the places where they live and work. To its credit, Wal-Mart went out of its way to debunk the false raid rumor and let the Spanish press know it was untrue.
Spanish-language newspapers, large and small, including Al Día in Cicero, Ill., published a letter from Wal-Mart that categorically denied that the company was allowing its stores to be used for sweeps at undocumented immigrants.
The rumor traversed the country like wildfire. Its basis, apparently, was a fabricated photo showing detained immigrants at a Wal-Mart. This photo spread via text message and e-mail seemed to suggest a resumption of the massive 2008 immigration raids in which hundreds of undocumented immigrants at a time were detained in large-scale operations. Wal-Mart was a false alarm, but Maryland was real.
So was the escalation of Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration sweeps.
And so was ICE official John Morton’s promise of more enforcement at a hearing last week in Congress. The immigrant press could be forgiven for wondering aloud if the wave of enforcement rumors and actions were meant to dissuade immigrants from taking to the streets in favor of immigration reform.
Then there was this article today in The Washington Post (via ImmigrationProf blog):
Seeking to reverse a steep drop in deportations, U.S. immigration authorities have set controversial new quotas for agents. At the same time, officials have stepped back from an Obama administration commitment to focus enforcement efforts primarily on illegal immigrants who are dangerous or have violent criminal backgrounds. The moves, outlined in internal documents and a recent e-mail by a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official to field directors nationwide, differ from pledges by ICE chief John T. Morton and his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, to focus enforcement on the most dangerous illegal immigrants. That approach represented a break from the mass factory raids and neighborhood sweeps the Bush administration used to drive up arrests.