Executive Pay Is One Thing. Next Stop: Immigration
Among the many hot-button issues that President Obama weighed in on during his presidential campaign and followed up on in his first week in office, immigration was decidedly NOT one of them. But as more information comes to light about how the Bush administration used law enforcement to appease the GOP’s anti-illegal immigration wing — and the nation’s economy continues to hemorrhage jobs — the Obama administration will likely be forced to start coming up with some answers.
The New York Times’ Nina Bernstein has a revealing story today about how the Bush administration sent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to raid immigrants’ homes, claiming it was targeting dangerous terrorists. In fact, documents produced in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a Cardozo Law School clinic reveal that the agency in 2006 changed its internal rules and forgot all about terrorists. Instead, it started raiding the homes of any immigrant who had overstayed a visa. In fact, according to a report released today from the Migration Policy Institute, 73 percent of the nearly 97,000 people arrested by special ICE “fugitive operations teams” between 2003 and early 2008 were immigrants with no criminal records. In many cases, there wasn’t even an immigration order issued against them.
Add that to some fascinating statistics I came across recently from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC — Syracuse University’s database on federal government activities — that shows more than half the federal prosecutions brought by the Bush administration were against immigrants — up from just 18 percent in the first year of the Bush presidency.
So now we see that the Bush administration targeted immigrants for all sorts of reasons: not just suspected terrorism, as Bush officials had claimed, but apparently to mollify the party’s anti-illegal immigration hard-liners. As Cardozo law professor Peter Markowitz told Nina Bernstein: “It looks like the law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the political agenda of the Bush administration.”
Hmmm, sounds familiar. We already knew that was happening in the Department of Justice; now we learn politics took over ICE as well.
Still, Obama’s going to have a hard time letting up on immigrants now. Consider, for example, the recent furor about bailed-out U.S. companies hiring foreigners to do professional jobs. Americans facing job loss have never been all that concerned about the interests of immigrants.
I’ll be covering immigration starting soon for TWI, and will be watching closely to see how the new administration handles what’s sure to be a difficult balancing act.