National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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A Nation On Lockdown

June 17, 2008 - Posted by Mario Moreno

We are witnessing an unprecedented period best described as enforcement on steroids without reform.  The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which follows government law enforcement data closely, indicates that by several measures we are in a new era of unleashing the Department of Homeland Security and the courts in the war on immigrants. 

TRAC reports that immigration-related convictions were up 96.3% in February 2008 compared to the same month in 2007 (see “Immigration Convictions for February 2008”) and that the U.S. set a new record for immigration-related prosecutions in March 2008 (see “Surge in Immigration Prosecutions Continues”).

[A]ccording to timely data from the Justice Department. The total of 9,350 such prosecutions was up by almost 50% from the previous month and 73% from the previous year.

The dramatic changes in the number of defendants charged with immigration-related charges are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United states Attorneys…

The spurt in the prosecutions of individuals charged with various immigration crimes is the result of “Operation Streamline.” Under this recently intensified administration policy, according to news reports and interviews with federal public defenders, the government has charged a rapidly growing number of undocumented aliens with various federal criminal charges in selected districts along the Mexican border. “Operation Streamline” began as a pilot project in December 2005 in Del Rio, Texas. – “Surge in Immigration Prosecutions Continues,” Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

The editorial writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday addressed this new enforcement era with an editorial headlined “Abhorring a vacuum: The absence of comprehensive immigration reform from Congress is resulting in a crackdown — a repudiation of who we are as a nation.

A recent New York Times article described how authorities throughout the country are using existing laws to round up illegal immigrants, with deportation as the end game. This is a nuclear, enforcement-only approach that disintegrates families and local economies.

Workplace raids occurred last month in Postville, Iowa, at Agriprocessors Inc., the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. They resulted in 260 illegal immigrants sentenced to five months in prison on charges related to federal identity theft laws.

In Florida’s Santa Rosa County, the sheriff had businesses searched for illegal immigrants, making arrests on charges of violating state identity theft laws.

One consequence of this is precisely what immigration foes want: more apprehensions, more deportations and a pall of fear cast over the immigrant community and those who would join them. Other consequences, however, include a repudiation of who we are as a nation of immigrants and swimming against a global tide that makes labor as fluid as goods. – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial, “Abhorring a vacuum,” June 16, 2008

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