Tying up the loose ends on immigration raids


“There are three things, as I see it, behind these immigration raids,” Travis Thompson, staff attorney for Centro Legal, Inc. in St. Paul said earlier this week: “To force the conversation on immigration debate, to satisfy a ‘messianic’ zeal among immigration law enforcement officials to rid the country of what they see as an undesirable element and just to drive up law enforcement budgets.”

“This push is certainly coming from the heads of Homeland Security, and certainly goes as high up as their field operation directors,” said Thompson.

Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Michael Chertoff made his course clear when he took office in 2005.

“Today I am announcing this goal for DHS: eliminate completely the ‘catch and release’ enforcement problem. Return every single illegal entrant–no exceptions,” Chertoff said in his first address to the Senate.

“What we’re seeing now is that the infrastructure and budget have finally grown to the point that the administration can carry out this strategy, which has torn apart families and disrupted the lives of thousands,” said Scott Chamberlain, communications coordinator, Resource Center of the Americas.

“Let’s be clear: This means expelling roughly 12 million people,” said an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe at the end of March this year. Written by Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Communications Director Christopher Ott, the article addressed a “a frighteningly ambitious plan” by the DHS called “Endgame” that aspired to “track down and deport all the immigrants to the United States who are living and working here without proper documentation, by the year 2012.”

“When you get this aggressive you see a lot of mistakes occurring,” said Thompson. Thompson was referring to the large number of legal residents that his office has seen being caught up– detained and questioned, sometimes at length–during the execution of recent raids on illegals.

“Most of our clients have some sort of reliable, legal document proving their right to be here,” said Thompson. “Sixty percent of the complainants in the Willmar raid action were U.S. citizens,” he said.

“Each of these actions concerned an entirely different set of laws dealing with specific investigations,” said Tim Counts, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of the DHS.

ICE agents knocked on doors during a recent raid in Austin, Minn., and were given permission to enter residences thought to be housing targeted offenders, Counts said. Of the eight arrests make in Austin, five were for previous drunk driving charges, two were for previous immigration violations and one was for identity theft in Iowa

“It’s purely, simply outrageous,” said Thompson. “When you get involved in racial profiling or home invasion and you get called out on it in court, you use this ‘compliance’ excuse,” he said.

“We target specific individuals,” said Counts. “We don’t roam around randomly making raids. We do prioritize for people that have been involved in criminal activity,” he said.

Counts said the ICE does not keep track of the number of individuals who are detained for questioning who are able to prove legal residence.

When asked about public safety priority of arresting people for drunk driving offenses, Counts countered, “Except that these were people who were in the country illegally.”

“My office has deported 200,000 people. Of those, about half had committed some sort of criminal offense,” Counts said.

“I read all these reports after we’ve gone in and made arrests that ‘only Latinos were questioned and everyone else just went on their way.’ That’s just not so,” said Counts. When we conduct an operation, everyone on the scene gets questioned,” he said.

“All the evidence that we’ve collected after their raids pretty single-handedly shows there is no criteria for detaining or questioning people except for race,” said Thompson. “The evidence of their [ICE’s] behaviors completely contradicts what they’ve said about not targeting Latinos on the scene.”

“Our arrests rely on widely accepted law enforcement standards,” Counts said. “We use ‘articulable, reasonable suspicion based on the totality of circumstances’ in order to detain suspects,” he said.

“That’s incorrect,” said Thompson, “Counts left out a key ingredient–the standard is ‘articulable, reasonable individualized suspicion,’” he said.

According to a review of case law, the “articulable, reasonable suspicion” standard used for police searches and seizures only trumps an individual’s rights under the Fourth Amendment when there is reason to believe a suspect poses potential harm to the arresting officer or to the public. Flight from a police officer generally does not constitute “reasonable suspicion,” and when police do find reason to detain someone under reasonable suspicion, they can only be detained for a short period of time.

John Torres, Director of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations for ICE, testified before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security this year in March that, “the average daily population [of detainees] has risen from approximately 18,000 in July 2006 to approximately 28,000 today.”

“The 2008 Budget includes $2.2 billion in detention and removal resources to continue this success,” is what you get when you google “U.S. government current budget, immigration and customs enforcement.”

Yesterday, Minnesota’s Senator Norm Coleman voted against moving the much-debated national immigration reform bill forward, according to his website.

Coleman cited “still too many problems with this bill and not enough time to correct them.” His amendment to the bill that would have abolished the practice of cities using “separation” ordinances to keep their police out of federal immigration law enforcement, had failed by one vote earlier in the session, according to Coleman’s communications director, Tom Steward.

“It’s ironic that Coleman wants this [nullification of separation ordinances] as he used to be mayor of St. Paul,” said Minneapolis Assistant Police Chief Sharon Lubinski.

St. Paul passed a separation ordinance in 2004 almost identical to the one in passed a year earlier in Minneapolis. Police chiefs in both Minneapolis and St. Paul had said that the use of their officers as agents of federal immigration policy would both aggravate the difficulty in getting immigrants to report crime and to work with the police and would add a large burden to already strained resources.

“We [the police] need to have the trust of the immigrants,” Lubinski said. “We want them to be able to approach us,” she said.

“During one of these raids, immigrants all clear the streets because they’re afraid and then we’re left to deal with the aftermath,” Lubinski said.

According to Minneapolis’ separation ordinance, police may not join forces with immigration agents except “in the investigation of criminal activity involving individuals present in the United States who may also be in violation of federal civil immigration laws” or when “responding to a properly issued subpoena.”

In order for Minneapolis police to aid federal agents in arresting anyone involved in immigration violations, the department would have to be formally notified and then a decision would have to be made by “someone up the chain of command,” according to Lubinski.

“Because of the sensitive nature of the immigration debate in the country,” Lubinski said.