U.S. Immigration Law: 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.

Haiti quake line.jpgOn one level, I appreciate the decision of Paul Mayer, a U.S. Department of State (DOS) employee stationed in Canada, to travel to Haiti to assist in the evacuation of U.S. citizens stuck in Haiti after the earthquake.  For one thing, it's certainly more than I've done to date in response to the quake.  For another, I'm a U.S. citizen, and if I were stuck in Haiti after the earthquake, I would want to be helicoptered out of there asap. 

I know from my interactions over the years with DOS that many foreign service officers join DOS because they want to improve U.S. relations with other countries or show non-Americans that we're not all in thrall to Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.  In fact, I completed an internship at the Rome Embassy in college and once dreamed of becoming a foreign service officer, or "FSO" for those in the know.

But Mayer experienced some inner conflict in Haiti that he didn't quite know how to deal with:

To say that it was heart-wrenching to do this work doesn't fully capture the feeling. Many tears were shed and many voices were raised. Time and time again, we would hear people begging us, "Please, what are we supposed to do?" It was so, so hot, and we all perspired copiously, but we knew that the people waiting in the queue were hotter and thirstier than we were. As much as it hurt, we had to say no to the unqualified cases; not doing so would be against the law and would also disadvantage those American citizens whose safety and well-being was our first priority. Under U.S. law, the State Department has very clear guidelines for the aid and assistance we provide American citizens in times of crisis, and our office of Overseas Citizen Services in Washington is there to support and guide us every step of the way. The Foreign Affairs Manual (we call it "the FAM") explains things in precise detail.

The FAM, however, doesn't prepare you for the feeling you get from saying, "No" and "I'm sorry" over and over. The FAM doesn't tell you how many bottles of water you will need to give people who've been standing in line for six hours. The FAM doesn't tell you how quickly you need to take the Power Bars you'd bought at Wal-Mart out of your backpack, just so you can give them to the people who are saying, "Please, j'ai faim." The FAM does not tell you whether you're permitted to shed a tear when you see the look of resignation in a person's eye after you've said, firmly, "I'm sorry, but you do not qualify." People just walked away, with their kids in one hand and their suitcase in the other. There were 500 more in the queue, waiting for their turn to come. This was Day 6 after the earthquake.
I propose that this inner conflict stems from Mayer's job description: to prevent the poorest and most vulnerable from coming to the U.S.  It is the organizing principle of the entire immigration system.  As he points out with some regret, the laws are clear and he must not stray from enforcing them.  Yet as Consular Section Chief  at the U.S. Embassy in Montreal, Mayer has uncommon insight into the impact of the screening function of the immigration bureaucracy.  He knows that the people he turns away will suffer; he knows that some will die.

This is the particular tragedy of FSOs around the world: cosmopolitan and compassionate, their instinct is to give refuge to the dispossessed, but rules are rules and must be obeyed.  Who are they to challenge the System That Keeps Us Safe?  Those who question authority tend not to work for the most powerful institution in the world, policing the boundaries between Us and Them. 

But there are other paths.

(Via BIB)
This comment from a post on family separation last year at change.org sums up the U.S. immigration system better than any analysis I've seen in a while.  The most insightful point: the system isn't broken, it works just as it was designed.  The Immigration and Nationality Act wasn't just randomly slapped together in a couple of weeks.  These laws were discussed and debated over many years and voted on by U.S. politicians who claimed to have the support of their constituents. 

I am the son and grandson of American citizens I have been an illegal alien for 19 years so far, originally applied through a fake 'American' lawyer who charged a hefty fee,  a few years later it put me into an overstay status because he never filed, I have now spent 17 years applying I have started going through the approval patch affidavits etc but basically been told once they have everything I am subject to a 10 year ban at the end of all this even though I am a retired investor and never worked one day for an American while here...

The problem with immigration is that the processing time frames are inhumane and so long people get old or die waiting and the hoops you need to jump through get smaller and smaller also the fact that you are never given one long list of items needed its always one thing out of dozens sent to you at a time its the carrot in front of the donkey syndrome, this is why many do not bother applying..

You watch the processing time frame speed up if immigration could only collect a fee once they were ready to process a fully eligible application and hand over a green card.

The whole system is a racket to extract fees then find every possible way to draw it out, make it extremely difficult, separte families develop deathly time frames and to find any possible angle to deny no matter how petty.

And what is the point in a ten year ban if you are going to let the applicant apply at the end? Let me answer that one to... The point is by the time 10 years go by the spouse has either died moved on with someone else or given up, if none of those have happened yet then hell let the immigrant pay more fees and apply from where he is that will notch up another 10 year wait for processing adding up to around 20 years since the beginning of the ban surely that will kill of or separate permanently 90% well if anyone is still kicking around after that suck up the fees and look for a loop hole to deny or why not just deny anyway and make a few more loopholes that should reduce whats left to about 1%..

Lets face the fact having discussions on immigration bans and family separation is really pointless, the problems are there because that is how the system is designed its not broken its a perfect money making racket that takes fees and money and does not need to provide a service its a bit like running a bar where people pay in advance for a drink but you make it almost impossible to get in the door or you just plain bar them from coming in for such a long time that they end up walking of after paying in advance.

And don't forget folks sure anybody can apply, sorry what was that sorry we cannot tell you if you are elligible or not you just need to pay the fees wait 10+ years we will let you know at the end.... Meanwhile in the INS tea room laughter and sure anyone can apply NO F-ING REFUNDS!!

Posted by Stuck InTime on 02/03/2010 @ 04:09AM PT

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the U.S. Immigration Law category from February 2010.

U.S. Immigration Law: December 2009 is the previous archive.

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