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Entries tagged "Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)"

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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.”

The One Percent Deports Itself

May 7, 2012 ·

The number of people renouncing their U.S. citizenship is higher than ever.

Now that new provisions in the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act have gone into effect, the feds are reining in tax dodgers living abroad. But many of these super-wealthy people who would be forced to pony up more in tax payments are choosing to sever ties with their country of birth instead.

Many of these individuals lead nomadic, season-driven lives. Their choice of where to live at any one time is based on that location’s climate, their children’s education, tax constraints, or which of their friends they want to lunch with on any particular day. When one has such a global outlook, paying taxes to something as archaic as a nation-state can be easily ignored. Bloomberg was among the first to report on this story:

About 1,780 expatriates gave up their nationality at U.S. embassies last year, up from 235 in 2008, according to Andy Sundberg, secretary of Geneva’s Overseas American Academy, citing figures from the government’s Federal Register. The embassy in Bern, the Swiss capital, redeployed staff to clear a backlog as Americans queued to relinquish their passports.

Renouncing their citizenship does not cost much to these global elites, who can achieve statelessness rather quickly:

During a 10-minute renunciation ceremony in a booth with bullet-proof glass windows, embassy staff ask exiting Americans whether they are acting voluntarily and understand the implications of giving up their passports. They pay a fee of $450 to renounce and may incur an “exit tax” on unrealized capital gains if their assets exceed $2 million or their average annual U.S. tax bill is more than $151,000 during the past five years.

The Obama administration deserves some credit for putting a scare into the expatriate tax-dodging class. But it can certainly still do more for the taxpayers facing deportation.

The number of immigrants being deported from the United States is also at an all-time high. After last year's much-celebrated announcement of a new discretion policy by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), advocates have seen dissappointing results. ICE has reviewed 219,554 pending cases, but only 16,544 (or 7.5 percent) were identified as amenable for prosecutorial discretion as of April 16, 2012. They have only closed 2,722 cases, according to figures released by ICE (pdf).

The status quo of post-recession America shows a government that's slighted by some of the richest members of its citizenry, while wistfully ignoring the plight of millions yearning for the full opportunity to become Americans.

Criminal Moms

March 30, 2012 ·

This past September, I was honored to be part of a delegation of powerful women leaders from across the country who came to Atlanta to bear witness to the testimony of immigrant women, children, and service providers who are struggling because of anti-immigrant policies in Georgia. This was the second delegation organized by a coalition of organizations called We Belong Together, that is trying to draw attention to the destructive effects of immigration enforcement on families.

Even as a social worker focused on the intersection of violence, ethnicity, immigration status, and the workplace for most of my career, the stories I heard on this trip overwhelmed me. Despite the hatred I have observed in the media and even in my hometown in the Florida panhandle, I still find it hard to believe that mothers struggling to care for their families could be demonized so viciously.

Beyond immigration status, we have seen stories from a class lens too. Two stories on the popular site Feministing, reported about mothers who were severely punished, simply for trying to access educations for their children.

Tanya McDowell was living as a homeless woman when she was arrested for sending her five-year-old son to a school district where she — surprise! — didn’t have a permanent residence. Ms. McDowell has said that she only wanted a better education for her child….She was just sentenced to 5 years in prison after pleading guilty in the case.

One year earlier Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted of lying about where she lived in order to get her daughters into a better school district. Her sentence? 10 days in county jail, three years of probation, community service, and payment of up to $30,000 in back tuition she could be required to pay the school.

My own mom, Lisa, found a (still very humble) apartment above her means as a secretary, just on the border of the school district that would give me a quality education. She opted to sleep on the couch for most of my teenage years so that my brother and I could have beds. She wore the same clothes to work every week, and never, ever bought anything for herself. We ate generic cereal, we dressed in generic brands, and we had our share of money scares but I cannot recall one time that she let me feel that fear. I am sure she would tell you that she is no hero, and no martyr, it’s just that a mother does what she needs to do to ensure her children have a better life.

The struggle facing undocumented immigrant mothers in the U.S. is magnified by a culture of xenophobia and hate, and it makes their sacrifices even more profound. My mom didn’t have to leave her family, friends, hometown or home country because economic and ecological crises had swallowed any opportunities for decent work. She didn’t have to cross a border in the middle of the night risking death, rape, robbery. She didn’t have to live in constant fear of being pulled over for a traffic ticket and having her children ripped from her arms and put in the social service system while she languished in a detention center.

To my sister delegates on this upcoming WBT delegation to Alabama, I look forward to your return reports. When we can uplift the humanity of all people regardless of immigration status, when folks can relate those harrowing stories and lives to their own struggles, when we all agree that families should be together, and all mothers should have the opportunity to provide food and shelter for their children without being arrested, then we will be witnessing progress.

Why Washington Should Be Like Chicago and Stand Up to ICE

January 9, 2012 ·

A difficult case in Chicago highlights the choices local governments have to make when forced to deal with complex immigration enforcement measures by the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Cook County in Illinois made headlines last year when it became the only jurisdiction to disregard immigration detainers from ICE. Now it faces public scrutiny after Saul Chavez, a suspected drunken driver charged with murder, is AWOL.

Local police units are under Janet Napolitano's jurisdiction. Photo by Center for American Progress.Saul Chavez is accused of killing a pedestrian on a northwest side of Chicago street last year. Days after, he went in front of a judge who set bond at $250,000. He paid ten percent of that, and walked free. Soon after, he was gone and has not gone to court since.

In his absence, the family of the victim is blaming Cook county’s breakup with ICE as the reason for their anger, as the Chicago Tribune reported:

"My anger is more directed at the fumbling and bumbling of Cook County agencies," said McCann's younger brother, Brian. "I'm more angry at the system than the offender. I know that sounds crazy."

Anger at the system is what took pro-immigrant organizers to seek the change in policy. Before Cook County’s actions, ICE detainers trapped Chicago residents who clearly did not deserve to sit around in jail waiting for an immigration hearing.The Chavez case is horrific - witnesses say he dragged his victim for more than 200 feet - but his immigration status is less dangerous to the common good than his drunk attempt to operate a motor vehicle.

Another case shows why Cook County should not automatically detain every undocumented person they come in contact with. On July 12, 2011, Marcelo Castañeda’s family member contacted the police in Illinois to assist her in getting into her locked car. He was then placed in deportation proceedings and held by Cook County for a week. Highlighting that he lived in the U.S. for most of his life, Castañeda’s supporters were able to win his release.

The reason why Saul Chavez has more to do with how courts handle bails, than how police units should handle immigration law. In this context, President Obama has tried to spook American citizens (“We are going after the worst of the worst!”) in justifying his support for increased deportations through programs that encourage local involvement in immigration enforcement, such as Secure Communities.

With the District of Columbia’s city council considering a detainer policy change similar to Cook County’s, the issue might soon be hot news in this area. Like Chicago, the city of Washington could benefit from a more productice immigrant population if it stands behind them in their aspirations for a legal ID, an education, and a trusting relationship with the Metropolitan Police Department. Last week, supporters of changing the detainer policy packed the room at a judiciary committee hearing.

ICE Records Don't Match Deportation Claims

January 4, 2012 ·

In the rush to try to deport 400,000 people per year, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) might have forgotten to file some paperwork.

ICE's impact is felt in communities across the country, but not seen in their official paperwork. Photo by ICE.The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has just published a report analyzing case-by-case records provided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The data, provided to TRAC almost two years after it was requested, shows a 34 percent discrepancy between the number of people ICE claimed to have removed and those shown to have been removed by the paperwork.  Overall, TRAC says ICE statements claimed almost five times more individual apprehensions than revealed in the data, as well as 24 times more individuals deported and 34 times more detentions. From TRAC:

In its initial FOIA request in May 2010, TRAC asked for specific information about all individuals who had been arrested, detained, charged, returned or removed from the country for the period beginning October 1, 2004 to date. In its initial and incomplete response, however, ICE so far has only provided TRAC with information through FY 2005. The agency said it would provide detailed information about the more recent years later.

Looking at the small data sample provided by ICE, TRAC’s analysts say that ICE either made exaggerated claims about the number of people who were deported during that time, or they are withholding information on a massive scale. I feel there could be another explanation: armed with the power to conduct massive raids, Bush-era ICE agents thought they could skip some of the paperwork altogether. With ICE unilaterally imposing a $450,000 “FOIA processing fee,” the public might never find what happened in the last few years at ICE. Making matters worse, restrictionists might use these findings to claim there really have not been as many deportations as the Obama administration has claimed. Put another nail on the “looking tough on immigration” Obama strategy.

As someone who has been deported on paper, but not in real life, I should feel lucky that ICE sometimes exercises discretion. But seeing this dysfunctional agency hold the power to do so much damage to the people of this country tells me this is bad fortune for everyone involved. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a creation of the post-9/11 era, and the enlargement through executive powers of the national security state.

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