A project of the Center for Community Change

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Advocates to DHS: Fire John Morton

Today, during a telephonic press conference FIRM and partner groups called on the Obama administration and Secretary Janet Napolitano to dismiss John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The reality is that ICE has gone rogue and needs to be reined in with dramatic action,” said one of the speakers, Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. “We call on President Obama to take control of the agency in order to ensure that public assurances from the top are reflected in the behaviors and practices of the enforcement agents on the ground.”

While the Obama administration and Secretary Napolitano have made clear their stance on targeting only undocumented immigrants with criminal records, recent memos from ICE and public statements made by Morton have directly contradicted those priorities.

“This department is under the control of our president, and we expect the president to hold it accountable,” said Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We are not going to be victims to politics. We are demanding they stop the criminalization of immigrant families.”

You can check out an audio recording of the event

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Today: Calling out Obama and ICE

Late notice, y’all, but today there is a telephonic press conference calling President Obama out for the inconsistencies in his message about supporting immigration reform and recent news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is increasing quotas to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants.

Check it out and join if you can:

WHAT: Telephonic press conference to demand President Obama take control of rogue agency

WHO: Organized by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM)
Speakers include Deepak Bhargava, executive director, Center for Community Change
Maria Rodriguez, executive director, Florida Immigrant Coalition
Ramon Ramirez, executive director, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Oregon)
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director, Voces de la Frontera (Wisconsin)
Brent A. Wilkes, national executive director, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Angela Sanbrano, board president, National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC)

WHEN: TODAY 1 p.m., Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CALL-IN NUMBER: (866) 861-4868, Conference ID 1446669

WHY: Nearly 15 months into President Obama’s administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) remains an agency without a clear direction. The latest evidence of ICE’s missing leadership was revealed last week in the form of an email written by a senior official setting out specific quotas for deportations, which deviated from publicly made statements by other senior officials and also veers drastically away from ICE’s stated commitment to focus on dangerous and violent criminals.

On the heels of organizing the largest protest of the Obama presidency, a march that brought more than 200,000 people to the National Mall on March 21 to call for comprehensive immigration reform, grassroots leaders intend to demand President Obama take responsibility and control of this agency run amok. Leaders from some of the country’s most prominent immigrant rights organizations will call for drastic changes at ICE, and insist the agency stop targeting hard working immigrants and stop separating families.

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Home Raids Violate the Constitution (tell us something we didn’t already know)

This week, Cardozo School of Law released a report asserting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not only violated their own rules during home raids in New York and New Jersey, but also violated the U.S. Constitution. For those of you who have followed the story of ICE’s unchecked power under the Bush administration, this comes as no surprise. From the New York Times:

The raids were supposed to focus on dangerous criminals, but overwhelmingly netted Latinos with civil immigration violations who happened to be present, the study said. Raiders mistakenly held legal residents and citizens by force in their own homes while agents rummaged through drawers seeking incriminating documents, the report said.

Some of the most egregious portions of the report include emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, showing that ICE agents saw the rounding up of immigrants and Latinos as nothing more than a glorified game of cops and robbers.

…A federal immigration agent in Connecticut invited a state trooper to join a scheduled set of raids in New Haven, writing: “We have 18 addresses — so it should be a fun time! Let me know if you guys can play!

These are not games and they should not be treated as such. The conduct of ICE and therefore of DHS has been in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution and the rules that the agency itself purports to follow.

Despite all of this and OVERWHELMING evidence that the so-called 287(g) program, which gives local law enforcement agencies the ability to enforce federal immigration law, is rampant with abuse and racial profiling, the Department of Homeland Security recently signed 11 new 287(g) agreements across the country.Keep in mind, this is the same program that keeps Joe Arpaio in power for his reign of terror in Arizona.

While DHS claims that much has changed under the new administration, I don’t think they are going far enough. Janet Napolitano needs to step up as the head of DHS and stop the racialized attack on Latinos and immigrants. This isn’t just about immigration, this is about the character of our country and our values. Do we want to endorse a program that violates the rights of those the Constitution supposedly protects? Do we want to create communities teeming with fear and distrust of law enforcement agencies who are their to “serve and protect”?

I think you know the answer.

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