Washington, DC– On Tuesday, February 24, 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided a workplace in Bellingham, Washington, reportedly arresting 28 people. This is the first major workplace raid since President Obama took office. The following is a statement by 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.
“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.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and we are indeed a nation of laws, yet when our government engages in practices that violate the very laws we hold dear, it is a clear indication that we must evaluate the course. The zeal with which federal and local law enforcement agencies have applied these policies has violated the rights and civil liberties of many in various communities, including legal residents and U.S. citizens. Latinos specifically have been racially profiled, arrested without warrant, detained without counsel, and in some cases even deported out of the country although legally present. Such policy is an abrogation of civil rights, common decency, and human dignity.
“Escalating immigration raids and local police crackdowns over the past eight years have spread indiscriminate terror among millions of people who pose no threat to the United States and who have lived peacefully and productively within our borders for years. Most have worked hard, paid taxes, lived productive lives, and been good neighbors. Many have children and spouses who are U.S. citizens. Many have served in our nation’s defense. Yet over the past eight years, U.S. policies have sought to criminalize this population, raid their homes and workplaces, suspend their civil liberties, put them in chains, and ultimately deport them. In the process, families are torn apart and children are separated from their parents, despite the fact that under U.S. law, immigration violations are a civil offense.
“Billions of dollars have been allocated over the last decade to such ill-conceived tactics, yet the undocumented population has continued to grow. While some may claim that these techniques have staunched unauthorized migration, the reality is that the most powerful factor in that equation has been a slowing economy. Restoring the rule of law to our immigration system requires systematic change and smart enforcement strategies that do not blur the line between innocent workers and those who mean us harm. An urgent response is needed, and it should include a thorough examination of Department of Homeland Security practices and policies to provide a cost-benefit analysis in terms of the effectiveness, security, resource efficiency, and ethics of these operations. We also need clarification from the administration as to its plan to reform our immigration system in a manner that protects families, workers, and our nation’s ideals.
“Let us not forget that how we resolve the status of the undocumented will say much about who we are as a country. We would do better to listen to the better angels of our nature.”