Tomorrow, December 15th, at 12:30 pm, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) will officially unveil his immigration reform bill to the U.S. House of Representatives–”Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009.” Details of the bill are yet unknown. However, in October and November, he spoke persuasively about protecting American and immigrant workers, providing enough visas to diminish undocumented immigration, strengthening border security, keeping families together as well as the DREAM Act and agJobs. In his own words:
“We have waited patiently for a workable solution to our immigration crisis to be taken up by this Congress and our President. The time for waiting is over. This bill will be presented before Congress recesses for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the New Year. It is the product of months of collaboration with civil rights advocates, labor organizations, and members of Congress. It is an answer to too many years of pain –mothers separated from their children, workers exploited and undermined security at the border– all caused at the hands of a broken immigration system. This bill says ‘enough,’ and presents a solution to our broken system that we as a nation of immigrants can be proud of.”
Rep. Gutiérrez will be joined by members of many different faiths and backgrounds, including Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific American Caucus and Progressive Caucus.
Meanwhile, enforcement measures continue to be ramped up. Last week, 286 foreign nationals representing more than 30 different nations were arrested in a 3 day California operation coordinated by ICE Fugitive Operations Program, involving over 400 agents and officers from ICE, the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as several other state and local agencies. The largest enforcement surge targeting criminal aliens yet. Assistant Secretary John Morton, who oversees ICE, called the operation another example of the vital role multi-agency cooperation and targeted immigration enforcement play in protecting our communities. Morton also suggested that:
“Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE’s mission. Legal immigration is an important part of our country’s history and the American dream exists for many immigrants. However, that dream involves playing by the rules and those who break our criminal laws will be removed from the country. Sadly, many of the people victimized by aliens who commit crimes are other members of the immigrant community, who are following the rules.”
Although ICE claims that nearly 80% of the criminal aliens taken into custody had prior criminal records, the arrests were conducted as part of a controversial program also designed to arrest and deport immigrants without a criminal record, who may have ignored deportation orders or who have been deported and illegally reentered the United States, to fill quotas, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute earlier this year, which states that 73% of the nearly 97,000 people arrested by ICE fugitive operations teams between the program’s inception in 2003 and early 2008 were unauthorized immigrants without criminal records.
Additionally, the report notes that the National Fugitive Operations Program (FOT) has dramatically expanded; its budget increased from $9 million in 2003 to $218 million last year. In its first five years, the program has received more than $625 million, more than any other ICE program. Yet ICE estimated last October that 557,762 fugitive aliens remain in the United States. Michael Wishnie, a Clinical Professor at Yale Law School reinforces this finding:
“The National Fugitive Operations Program has not delivered on its promise to find and remove dangerous fugitives. The evidence suggests that this is a case of ‘mission drift,’ in which the program has used public funding intended for one purpose for something entirely different: Apprehending non-violent non-fugitives – who constitute the easiest targets.”
Other critics focus on the fear that the FOT program, and similar initiatives, like the Criminal Alien Program, Secure Communities and the agency’s partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies under 287(g) induce in immigrant communities by sending armed agents into neighborhoods and pulling parents away from their children.
Photo courtesy of indypressny.org