National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Raids, Rights, and the Rule of Law: A Critical Need for Oversight and Reform

February 14, 2008

Washington, DC - Today, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law holds a "Hearing on Problems with ICE Interrogation, Detention, and Removal Procedures."  The following is a statement by Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Deputy Director for Legal Affairs at the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington.

During the past year, thousands of immigrants have been arrested in factories, meatpacking plants, neighborhoods, and inside their homes.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have also been chasing, arresting, and deporting immigrants with outstanding removal orders under the "fugitive operation" program.  ICE declares that more than 30,000 immigrants were arrested under this program in the past year alone, but reports suggest that many immigrants have been arrested without a warrant, humiliated in front of their children, and held in detention without basic safeguards and due process of law.  Meanwhile, substandard and sometimes fatal detention conditions have been documented by advocates and the agency's own Inspector General. 

It is a national game of 'Wheel of Misfortune' for those who are unlucky enough to be caught in the sweeps and separated from their families, but this is no way to get control over our immigration system and restore the rule of law.  It is fantasy to believe we can simply enforce our way out of the current situation, hoping we can catch and deport 12 million undocumented people, incarcerate an estimated one in 20 U.S. workers, or that these millions will leave on their own.

A rational system that gets our undocumented workforce into the system and on the books is needed, but with comprehensive immigration reform at a stalemate, ICE continues a course of using archaic laws to penalize immigrants, their families, and people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Realistically, enforcement will only work in the context of broader reforms that allow for legal immigration and create ways for our current workers to get legal.

There is a critical need for Congressional oversight when it comes to our immigration system.  We commend the subcommittee for holding this important hearing.  We also urge Congress to support reforms that protect basic rights of those arrested and place our immigration system back on a legal footing. 

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