National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

Raids Reaction Is Swift and Forceful

February 26, 2009 - Posted by Mario Moreno

In case you didn’t hear, 28 workers, including three mothers, were chained, arrested, and taken from a factory in Bellingham, Washington as part of an ICE enforcement operation on Tuesday (news coverage from Washington state here, here, and here).


In a press release, Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the Forum, called on the Obama Administration to be clear about what their approach to immigration, enforcement and reform would be:


The President and his team should say loud and clear how they are going to address immigration reform to strengthen the economy, protect workers, and reestablish the rule of law.  We need to know when we can expect reform to be a priority and what the President will do in the mean time to make sure that immigration enforcement does not do further damage to our economy, erode civil rights, or continue the failed practices of the last Administration that played fast and loose with people’s legal rights. – Ali Noorani, “Bellingham, Washington Workplace Raid Creates Crisis for Obama on Immigration,” National Immigration Forum Press Statement, February 25, 2009


The raid is a potential public relations disaster for the President who one week ago told a national radio audience he is “very committed to making it [comprehensive immigration reform] happen” and just yesterday told Congress and America, in the context of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, “living our values doesn't make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger.”


The Fair Immigration Reform Movement, a national grassroots network of immigrant advocacy and service organizations, zeroed in on the politics in their “Standing FIRM” blog post:


After so many Latino and New American voters showed up at the polls to vote for Obama, after promises of changes to immigration policy and after countless recent reports that Bush-era immigration enforcement tactics are both financially and humanely costly, I CANNOT believe the administration is allowing this to happen.


The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, based in Chicago (the President’s hometown) said in a statement:


Despite the promise of change from the new administration, raids and deportations have not stopped. The enforcement-only approach has proven ineffective and has only caused business disruption, family separation and terrorized communities. It is a shame that at a time of economic recession, billions of dollars are being spent on arresting and jailing immigrants that do not pose any threat to this country.


Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, said in a statement:


We are better than this, and our nation deserves better than the continuation of a failed immigration policy that contradicts American values and civil liberties.  Our community understands the federal government's pursuit of hardened, dangerous criminals and our country’s need to protect its borders.  But the systematic demonization, detention, and deportation of peaceful immigrant workers and parents under the pretense of homeland security is an assault on our values as a country.  At a time when messages of change and hope abound, we are left to wonder how change will come to these failed policies.


Finally (for now), another Washington, DC-based advocacy group, America’s Voice, issued a statement reminding President Obama of the words in the Democratic Party’s 2008 National Platform:


We are committed to pursuing tough, practical, and humane immigration reform in the first year of the next administration….  [W]e need to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.  It’s a problem when we only enforce our laws against the immigrants themselves, with raids that are ineffective, tear apart families, and leave people detained without adequate access to counsel. . . .  For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.  We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.  They are our neighbors, and we can help them become full tax-paying, law-abiding, productive members of society.


Those are words we hope President Obama and his team will remember.

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