DMI Blog

Cristina Jimenez

Obama’s Immigration Enforcement Approach Hurting NYC

Instead of focusing on reforming our broken immigration system, the Obama administration has chosen to expand and renew flawed and inhumane enforcement practices established by the Bush administration.

Secure Communities is one of the enforcement programs that the administration has decided to expand, which is projected to cost about $1 billion a year. The program allows local enforcement officials to check fingerprints taken at local jails with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to ICE, the program aims at deporting immigrants who have committed crimes. But the National Immigration Law Center explains that in practice the program applies to immigrants regardless of guilt or innocence, how or why they were arrested, and whether or not their arrests were based on racial or ethnic profiling or were just a pretext for checking immigration status.

The impact of Secure Communities is being felt even in pro-immigrant localities like New York City. New York Department of Correction usually provides a list of foreign-born detainees at Rikers Island to ICE. According to data obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by lawyers at the Immigrant Justice Clinic of Cardozo School of Law, an estimated 4,000 foreign-born Rikers Island detainees are put into deportation proceedings each year. More than three quarters of these detainees have yet to be convicted and are awaiting trial.

Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Immigrant Justice Center at Cardozo says:

Immigration agents have sometimes used "coercive and deceitful tactics" in questioning foreign-born pretrial detainees, effectively denying them their constitutional rights to be presumed innocent, to remain silent and to be represented by a lawyer. These tactics affect foreign-born United States citizens as well as unauthorized immigrants and legal residents subject to deportation.

This week, New York City immigrant and civil rights advocates accompanied by more than 150 community members launched a campaign to pressure City Council to decline ICE access to pretrial detainees at Rikers.

In a recent immigration meeting, the Secretary of Homeland Security and President Obama reiterated their commitment to immigration reform. But their commitment and promises are just empty words. Clearly, the administration's priority is to enforce flawed enforcement practices that only inflict suffering and fear in immigrant communities. To prove its commitment to reform, the administration must deliver concrete actions to improve a system that is in crisis and out of control.

Cristina Jimenez: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 3:00 PM, Aug 27, 2009 in Immigration
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