Nativism: February 2010 Archives

ICE police.jpg

Since I work as an immigration attorney at a nonprofit, it is only natural that ICE is not my favorite government agency. Regular readers of the blog probably know that by now. If I worked at the Public Defender's Office, I would regularly (as opposed to occasionally) blog about the perfidy of the Assistant District Attorneys. If I were a cop, I would blog about those weaselly public defenders or the DFHs at the ACLU.

But once in a while I read a story about ICE that surprises me, and I'd like to think I've developed a thick skin about these things over the last few years.

Helen O'Neill writes for the AP about a brother and sister who became confidential informants (CIs) for ICE. Emilio and Analia Maya were introduced to ICE by a friend of Analia's, a police officer named Sydney Mills.

According to Mills, the deal was straightforward: In exchange for working as informants, ICE would help the brother and sister get coveted S visas, which, in rare instances, are awarded to immigrants who help law enforcement.

After working for ICE without pay from 2005 to 2009, sometimes in dangerous undercover situations, ICE turned on the Mayas, arresting and detaining Emilio and putting both siblings into removal proceedings. Officer Mills doesn't know what to make of this:

A 10-year veteran of the police department, Mills had long worked undercover narcotics operations, sometimes with the FBI. He knows how deals are stuck with informants. And though he had never dealt with ICE before, "I assumed it was just another law enforcement agency and the rules would be the same."

The golden rule: "You protect your sources, and you never renege on a deal."

At first, I concluded from this story that ICE is just not very good at law enforcement. ICE's stated mission is to "protect the security of the American people and homeland by vigilantly enforcing the nation's immigration and customs laws." Wouldn't that goal be better served by cultivating trustworthy CIs to help ICE target violent offenders, human traffickers, and transnational crime syndicates?

Then I remembered what I've learned from my daily experience dealing with ICE and the immigration bureaucracy: preventing crime is hard, deporting the nearest undocumented gardener, cook, or nanny is easy. When politicians and the press give DHS a free pass, the stated goal of protecting the security of the American people often takes a back seat to the unstated goal of deporting as many brown people as possible.

ICE spokespersons talk up its Criminal Alien Program and Fugitive Operations teams, but don't mention the fact that 73% of people apprehended by the Fugitive Ops teams in recent years had no criminal records, or that the Criminal Alien Program targets people after an arrest, not a conviction, leading to racial profiling by local police who know an arrest on any pretext may lead to deportation.

ICE's shameful treatment of its CIs sends a clear message about its true priorities: Deport the easiest targets first, then combat crime if we get around to it. That's not something I'm happy about supporting with my earnings this tax season, and I won't be voting this fall for any politician who shovels money at ICE's "law enforcement" operations without asking what the agency is doing with it.