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For the Hispanic community, which constantly suffers the consequences of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities, recent revelations by the Washington Post—that ICE officials have set quotas for deportation of undocumented immigrants, without consideration for the circumstances of those they’re removing from the country—come as no surprise.
Latinos who live in some of the most remote parts of the country can describe with despair how they’ve seen the Hispanic population of their communities reduced by ICE’s actions and the horrific consequences of the deportation policies they enforce, such as 287(g) and Secure Communities.
Before the Obama Administration, in the summer of 2008, in Beaufort County, South Carolina, local authorities decided to inaugurate their partnership with ICE with what they called Operation Surge – a reign of terror during which 300 undocumented immigrants were arrested and stuffed into a local jail too small to accommodate all the new arrivals.
There, deportations have persisted under the 287(g) program—with gross abuses to its intent. “It’s not just being used to deport criminals, but all kinds of people. It’s an abuse,” Eric Esquivel, publisher of the bilingual magazine La Isla (which is printed in the area), told me.
The reality is that despite the modifications ICE made last year to its memorandum of understanding with local police departments under 287(g), as part of the Obama administration’s new policy to prioritize deporting real criminals, local agents are continuing to put immigrant workers with no criminal records into deportation proceedings.
But the situation in the highest levels of the federal bureaucracy is no different; take, for example, the internal memo from ICE’s Detention and Removal Office (DRO) dated February 22nd, which clearly presents a deportation quota of 250,000 noncriminal immigrants a year.
The DRO’s philosophy appears not to have changed since 2003, when then-director Anthony Tangeman signed his name to Operation Endgame, a strategic plan to deport all undocumented immigrants over a ten-year period.
ICE director John Morton’s clarification that his agency does not set quotas is irrelevant. The numbers speak for themselves.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano herself said last August 11th in El Paso that for the year to date, ICE had made 181,000 arrests and deported 215,000 “illegals.” The Secretary remarked that detentions had increased by 6% over the same period compared to 2007, when George W. Bush was president, and deportations had increased by 25%.
Later, DHS reported that deportations had increased 46% under the Obama Administration.
These were activists’ complaints when they met with the president in the White House before this month’s march in Washington. And this is why they were surprised when the president appeared to believe that his administration was primarily deporting criminals.
By “coincidence,” the same day that the president met with Latino activists—and only 28 miles away–ICE’s “cowboys” conducted a pair of raids that resulted in the arrest of 29 humble restaurant employees.
This is why no one should be shocked that some community leaders have labeled the current ICE memo scandal “treason,” that they say that the White House is engaging in doubletalk, that posters at demonstrations have shown John Morton’s face with slogans written over it, or that the Reform Immigration for America campaign is asking: Who’s in charge?