National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Another Side of the Broken Immigration System

May 02, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger



 


At the end of March, and again in early April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents conducted enforcement actions at two Detroit elementary schools.  These actions unleashed a firestorm of public criticism, and resulted in a decision by ICE headquarters to investigate these and other incidents in Detroit.


 


The ICE union, in a statement, denied allegations that the school was being raided and blamed ICE headquarters for indicating the agents may have been acting against ICE policy.


 


ICE agents are, according to their union, feeling besieged. The publication Working In These Times reported on an e-mail interview with the ICE union president Chris Crane.  Mr. Crane noted that, in a survey of local ICE union leaders, the number one issue the leaders felt needed addressing was “redefine officers, agents and employees to the American public.”  A couple of excerpts from that interview:


 


ICE employees are ridiculed and hated by all; from the public, to special interest groups, to other law enforcement agencies and the media, to politicians and our own president.


 


Our employees are incredibly understaffed and absolutely overwhelmed with their workloads, but remain dedicated and work extremely hard for extremely long hours every day, but in the end practically everyone has some type of negative opinion about them.


 


Here is the real problem: ICE agents are charged with enforcing broken immigration laws that Congress has, for the past 10 years, refused to fix. 


 


Ordinarily, a law enforcement agent might expect public appreciation for arresting a criminal who might pose a threat to the public.  ICE agents do some of that, but they also arrest community members who  pose no danger and are loved and respected by a lot of people.  To the extent that ICE agents stray from the agency’s own rules and priorities, they are, in the public’s eye, not arresting people who are public safety threats, but people who are friends, co-workers, classmates and parents of classmates, employees, parishioners, neighbors.  These are people who, having lived in the U.S. for years and who have been contributing members of communities all across the U.S., should be given a way to gain legal status.  That’s Congress’ job, and it doesn’t look like Congress will be doing their job anytime soon.


 


Rather than blame their bosses, ICE agents should urge their members of Congress to fix a broken immigration system that makes their job untenable.  No amount of backing from ICE headquarters is going to give the public a warm and fuzzy feeling about agents who are arresting their neighbors and friends because they don’t have proper papers.  As long as the law requires the deportation of otherwise upstanding members of the community, public scorn comes with the territory.


 

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