A project of the Center for Community Change

immigration raids

DHS Signals Policy Changes Ahead for Immigration Raids

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Today the Washington Post published an article about an impending policy shift in the way the Department of Homeland Security does business. Immigration raids, which were the Bush administration’s pride and joy, are being restructured under Obama and new DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The raids, which target workers and destroy communities, are now shifting focus.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.

A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute — increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.

“There will be a change in policy, but in the interim, you’ve got to scrutinize the cases coming up,” the senior DHS official said, noting Napolitano’s expectations as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.

These delays are a good sign that immigration enforcement policy will be changing. In recent weeks there have been many prominent leaders (both political and faith) calling for a change in immigration policy and an end to the destructive raids.

While a policy is still under development, Napolitano has said she intends to focus more on prosecuting criminal cases of wrongdoing by companies. Analysts say they also think ICE may conduct fewer raids, focusing routine enforcement on civil infractions of worker eligibility verification rules.

This is good news since it signals an end to scapegoating the most vulnerable while letting the powerful off the hook. However, just a shift in enforcement policy will not be enough to right the course. This must come along with comprehensive reform in order to truly begin to fix the broken system.

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Chicago Cardinal: “Stop the Raids”

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On Saturday the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for an end to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement worksite raids. From the AP.

“I stand with other faith leaders and all of you gathered here today and with every immigrant family in this nation to call on our government to end immigration raids and the separation of families,” said Cardinal Francis George at an immigrants-rights rally at a northwest Chicago church.

Without naming President Barack Obama, George said the current administration can fulfill its promises of change by working toward immigration reform. The rally was one in a 17-city series of meetings organized by advocates of changes to U.S. immigration policy, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.

Faith leaders, political leaders and community leaders are all calling for an end to the enforcement-only approach to immigration that thrived under the Bush administration. Let’s hope that these demands for change are met head on in the new administration.

To help create this change, join our Mobile Action Network. Text “justice” to 69866 to receive action alerts and updates in your area. Help us end the raids and stand up for immigrant rights in our country.

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A Year Without a Mexican: A Postville Retrospective

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the devastating Postville raid, Marcelo Balve writes a poignant and insightful retrospective on the past year and the current state of immigration policy in our country at Mother Jones.

Indeed, the 389 arrests eliminated more than one-third of the meatpacker’s workforce and nearly one-fifth of the town’s population. It also prompted an exodus of hundreds more Hispanic residents who were either afraid of being targeted or simply opted to escape the town’s inevitable tailspin. Postville’s businesses began to suffer almost immediately. Even the Wal-Mart in Decorah, a half-hour away, called Postville mayor Robert Penrod with concerns about the economic impact. Penrod, who stepped down as mayor this month, can recall an eerie calm settling over the town, as though it were part of some Twilight Zone episode. “Before, it was all hustle bustle, and you’d see people walking up and down the streets and driving and listening to music,” he told me. “Then all of a sudden, boom! I mean nobody was walking the streets.”

Harder to quantify, but no less real, was the damage to an unusual multicultural experiment in America’s heartland. It had begun back in 1987 when ultra-Orthodox Jews came to Postville to turn the defunct Hygrade plant into the nation’s largest kosher meatpacker, which promptly became a beacon for immigrant labor. Postville proudly dubbed itself “Hometown to the World,” and despite the company’s recent attempts to recruit legal replacement workers from as far away as Palau, the motto has acquired an ironic ring. Ten months after the raid, the meatpacker, having declared bankruptcy, was operating at half-steam with a ragtag assembly of workers, and the town’s economy remains a shambles. Back in October, Mayor Penrod told CNN that Postville was living a “freaky nightmare.” And it still isn’t over.

You absolutely must read the entire piece – I promise it is worth fifteen minutes of your time. Postville has become the symbol for just how destructive and costly immigration raids can be – not just for the undocumented immigrants ICE targets, but for entire communities and even regions.

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