Misguided Priorities for Immigration Enforcement

The Los Angeles Times published an editorial this week titled “ICE fishing” commenting on research provided recently by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). The editorial board found no big surprise in the number of undocumented immigrants who were arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) between 2003 and 2008, saying:
What does raise eyebrows, though, was that almost three-quarters of those arrested by ICE's fugitive operations teams did not have criminal records. In other words, the agency, brawny with hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding and a 1,300% increase in staffing, was nabbing lots of waiters and car-washers whose only crime beyond their illegal entry was to have ignored a deportation order.
Of those that were detained, many did not impose a serious danger to security. The intent of the funding for ICE is to ensure security and provide additional assistance in capturing criminals. Indeed, ICE already has a set of basic procedures that primarily target those that create a threat or harm to others:
In Category 1 are those who pose threats to national security. They are followed by those considered threats to the community, fugitives who are violent criminals, fugitives with criminal records and, last, in Category 5, immigrants with no known offenses other than being here illegally.
While the primary goal, theoretically, is to seek out criminals who are the most threatening, the outcome is that more undocumented immigrants with no previous criminal record are being detained and deported. The editorial states:
Deportations won't solve the nation's immigration problem. For all of ICE's efficiency -- the number of people with outstanding deportation orders is down from a high of 634,000 in 2007 to 554,000 -- there are still 11 million or so illegal immigrants to go.
Overall, with greater resources and funds spent to provide safety for the country, ICE doesn’t seem to be using the increased funds for productive uses. In addition to the decreased focus on dangerous criminals, ICE’s actions threaten the important relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities, endangering the safety of all Americans.

To read the full article, click here.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund