Immigration 101 tracks my course in immigration law at Hofstra Law School.
Prior to 2006, most people picked up in immigration raids were persons already identified as undocumented immigrants or immigrants caught in workplace raids. Beginning in 2006 that changed dramatically.
Responding to political pressure, the Department of Homeland Security began to step up raids throughout the U.S. that were conducted without judicially issued warrants. The raids, ostensibly designed to arrest gang members, were, in fact, used as fishing expeditions in immigrant-dense areas for stopping and examining immigration documents of Asians and Latinos without any cause at all.
Raids last year in Nassau County revealed the way the raids work.
Raids began just as dawn was breaking around Long Island. Heavily armed ICE agents, without warrants, broke into houses around the area. Men were forced to floor by the officers as their screaming children looked on. ICE agents then asked if any of the men were individuals named as persons with orders of deportation. In most cases the presumed targets of the raids did not even live at the site being raided. The ICE agents then began questioning those in the houses about their own immigration status. In other words, the raid had failed to secure its targets and the victims of the raid were now exposed to legal jeopardy because ICE had acted erroneously!
ICE claimed that the raids had targeted gang members, but most of those victimized by the break-ins and more than 80% of those arrested were not gang members. The Nassau Police Department was livid because it keeps up to date records of addresses of gang members which it offered to make available to ICE. ICE declined, preferring, for obvious reasons, to raid the wrong houses.
ICE agents did not even take the basic step of ascertaining whether high risk victims, particularly children, were present. Nor did it provide care for children whose parents were taken from the home.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Mulvey lambasted the “cowboy” mentality of the federal agents “running roughshod over local police officers [and] at times pointing their weapons at cops”.
ICE described virtually everyone arrested as either a “gang member” or “gang associate”. It was later revealed that anyone who lived in a boarding house with a gang member was considered a “gang associate” even if he did not even know the gang member.
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Immigration 101 is a comprehensive series on American immigration law for the layperson. This series tracks my course on immigration law at Hofstra Law School and answers many of your questions about immigration policy.