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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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Entries tagged "Department of Homeland Security"

Human Trafficking and Immigration: The Ties That Bind

January 10, 2013 ·


Stop Human Trafficking

Once again this year, President Obama has declared January as “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month,” and in his address he calls on the “national mission” to fight human trafficking.

This month, we rededicate ourselves to stopping one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time. Around the world, millions of men, women, and children are bought, sold, beaten, and abused, locked in compelled service and hidden in darkness. They toil in factories and fields; in brothels and sweatshops; at sea, abroad, and at home. They are the victims of human trafficking — a crime that amounts to modern-day slavery.

As Americans, we have long rejected such cruelty. We have recognized it as a debasement of our common humanity and an affront to the principles we cherish. And for more than a century, we have made it a national mission to bring slavery and human trafficking to an end.

For 13 years, our project Break the Chain Campaign at the Institute for Policy Studies provided direct social services and counseling to immigrant survivors of human trafficking and worker exploitation. Our clients were largely women from Africa and Southeast Asia who had come to the US to work as domestic workers in the homes of wealthy families, diplomats and employees of the World Bank and the IMF. When they fled the abuse, they faced a new fear: being undocumented in America.

The issue of immigration, and immigration reform, is tied inextricably with the issue of human trafficking, especially as heightened border control measures lead people to turn to riskier pathways in order to provide food, shelter, and opportunities for their families.

Immigration will be near the top of President Obama’s political agenda in his second term, and organizers are already gearing up for campaigns that will put human dignity, family preservation, and pathways to citizenship at the forefront of these discussions.

In the meantime, working within the enforcement-focused paradigm that we have now, anti-trafficking advocates are faced with the challenge of undocumented immigrant survivors being too afraid to report domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes.

We commissioned a group of public policy students from George Washington University to write a brief report on what we’ve been calling the “dual mandate” of the U.S. Government (particularly Department of Homeland Security): to identify and serve trafficking survivors, and to combat unauthorized immigration, and the conflicts that can arise when the two areas of work overlap.

In advance of the release of this brief report, which we expect within the coming weeks, we’ve compiled some of the key findings on the fact sheet, Key Facts from “The Dual Mandate: Immigration Enforcement and Human Trafficking.”

Obama Announces Deportation Policy Reform

August 18, 2011 ·

The announcement today that the Obama administration will review the deportation cases of more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants is one positive step among many missteps in an administration that has failed to provide a coherent strategy on immigration.

On the White House blog, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz talks about the steps that will be taken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create that review committee which will review those deportation cases:

DHS, along with the Department of Justice, will be reviewing the current deportation caseload to clear out low-priority cases on a case-by-case basis and make more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk. And they will take steps to keep low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline in the first place. 

It remains to be seen if this latest announcement is the beginning of a pivotal moment where Obama begins shifting to a more liberal immigration policy, or if months from now we see it as the only moderately positive step among many negative ones.

Throughout his time in office, Obama has let immigration policies evolve on their own, providing little input other than periodic speeches in Latino-heavy areas. By making no comment on congressional increases in enforcement-related spending, while opting to ratchet up enforcement policies that raise the number of deportations, Obama created the need for political actions like today’s.

300,000 cases is a small fraction of the entire undocumented population, and much more reform will be needed at the congressional level to move the country forward. The question is whether Obama and his administration can recognize that their actions on beefing up the "deportation pipeline" that Muñoz talks about, i.e. their support for mandatory Secure Communities, are likely to do more damage than any cosmetic reforms to the prosecutorial process can undo.

The Obama Administration's Attack on Immigrants' Civil Liberties Hits a Judicial Roadblock

July 20, 2011 ·

A powerful, nationwide electronic immigration sweep is slowly coming to a police force near you. And, the general public might be roped into giving away some of its civil liberties in the process.

That can be concluded from the recently exposed connection between the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Department of Homeland Security has championed technological programs like Secure Communities, an electronic fingerprint data-sharing program that's scheduled to be rolled out nationally by 2013. ICE and DHS, however, recently suffered a setback with Secure Communities.

From Courthouse News Service:

MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge ordered the federal government to hand over "embarrassing" information about its "Secure Communities" program. "There is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote.

"In particular, these agencies have failed to acknowledge a shift in policy when it is patently obvious — from public documents and statements - that there has been one," the judge added in a scorching 81-page Opinion and Order in National Day Labor Organizing Network et al. v United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency et al.

Also on Monday, the DHS Office of Inspector General said it will investigate ICE's misrepresentations of the Secure Communities opt-out policy and whether the program fulfills its purported mandate.

The policy shift comes from a rhetorical maneuver by ICE over the last couple of years. Initially, programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities were branded as optional, and slowly brought into cities and counties where their introduction wouldn't be controversial.

Secure Communities was originally explained as a federal immigration fingerprinting database that localities could choose to use to identify gang and criminal activity. The vast majority of the undocumented population, however, is non-criminal.

Despite early signs that a lot of students and parents of U.S. citizens were getting detained under Secure Communities, the administration continued its pursuit of Secure Communities across the nation. At some point, the program stopped being branded as optional, and the courts are now saying that much was obvious.

But the question remains of what ICE is trying to hide while changing the way they talk about Secure Communities.

Recently released documents show that Secure Communities is simply the first step to a wide-reaching FBI program called the Next Generation Initiative that will also include iris scans, palm prints, and facial imaging.

The plaintiff in the case is the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), an organization that's suing ICE in this case. (It also won a 2010 Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Award). NDLON points out the political damage that Obama has caused to himself by running after the murky idea of a "secure border" and letting ICE play the national security game all the way to the bank:

"While the Obama administration boasts of the 'Secure Communities' program to win political points with Republicans, it has kept actual policy details nearly secret from Congress, state partners, and the American public. Thankfully, federal courts, not ICE, get the last word," said NDLON director Pablo Alvarado.

Obama needs to realize that he will take punches from Republicans no matter what he does, and that ICE lied to the public on his behalf. So far, he has chosen to stand with those liars, but they might be costing the U.S. governement too much in legal fees. In 2012, he may also pay heavily in lost votes from former supporters who expected him to champion just and humane immigration reform.

End this Cynical Anti-Immigrant Program, Save $460 Million

March 30, 2011 ·

Protest against Secure Communities program outside Mass. State House

Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton is fond of boasting about the Secure Communities program, which enables ICE to share fingerprint data with local and state police forces in a supposed quest to crack down on foreign-born criminals.

The Department of Homeland Security touts Secure Communities by sprinkling any description of the program with anecdotes about the worst criminal immigrants, such as a man arrested on assault charges who had previously been deported after a murder conviction. Secure Communities makes it more possible for low level offenses to be punished by deportation, even if the charges are later reduced or dropped. In most of those cases, the punishment will not fit the crime. Deportations and raids are counter-productive and carry a damaging psychological effect that goes well beyond the deported individuals. Tiffany Williams, from the Institute’s Break The Chain campaign, writes:

Approximately five million U.S. citizen children have at least one undocumented parent. A study by the Urban Institute revealed that children are often the real victims of workplace raids -- 80 percent of the children of workers in their study sites were less than ten years old. When families experience long separations from other family members, the report noted the effects can include significant economic hardship, psychological stress, and feelings of abandonment that can lead to sustained mental health problems.

When the American Psychological Association recently recommended overhauling our detention centers and social service networks to better protect children and maintain family units, it acknowledged the widespread psychological trauma caused by immigration enforcement -- including everything from infant developmental delays to dismal academic performance.

Williams isn't alone in looking at the larger scope of immigration enforcement. The National Day Laborers Organizing Network has joined with other organizations in suing ICE over Secure Communities.

What’s terrible about Secure Communities is its seeming inevitability. For the average Joe (or average Joes that don't use their average nickname for speechmaking profit), Secure Communities sounds like a straightforward idea. Obama wants to make it a mandatory national program by 2013. The Homeland Security budget (pdf) for Fiscal Year 2012 includes $276 million for training local and state law enforcement agencies in immigration matters and $184 million for Secure Communities -- expanding its reach to 96 percent of jurisdictions across the country.

As Congress scrambles to make budget cuts and a government shutdown looms, lawmakers should axe Secure Communities and its accompanying trainings to get $460 million closer to their goals.

When it comes to immigration reform, real solutions might be counterintuitive. Knowing that most undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. have been here more than 10 years, for example, might make people less susceptible to this information-sharing programs that essentially create fast tracks to deportation for hundreds of thousands of people whose lives are already interwoven into the communities to which they migrated.