In a speech at the Center for American Progress on November 13, 2009, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, "in order to have fully effective law enforcement, we need Congress to create the legal foundation for bringing the millions of illegal immigrants in this country out of the shadows, require them to register and pay all taxes they owe, and enforce the penalties that they will have to pay as part of earning legal status. Let me emphasize this: we will never have fully effective law enforcement or national security as long as so many millions remain in the shadows." We agree. And, we applauded the Secretary's commitment to 'serious and effective enforcement' of our nation's immigration laws.
It doesn't look like ICE got the memo.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a serious credibility problem as they continue to say one thing while doing another. ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton can not effectively lead an agency when he doesn't know what his field representatives are doing or when his subordinates are delivering messages directly at odds with the purported goals of the organization and the President. The memo issued by James Chaparro, head of ICE detention and removal operations, issued way back in February, is only the latest in a series of agency mishaps that have undermined the administration's credibility on immigration enforcement policy.
ICE's priority should be maintaining the nation's security, not deporting workers. Americans are rightly concerned about where ICE chooses to focus its limited resources. Indiscriminate audits of employers paying good wages only harms working families, destroys communities, and does nothing to target unscrupulous employers operating in a cash only environment with appalling wages and working conditions.
The absurd mandate of requiring detention beds be filled - for the sake of filling them - leads to inefficient and ineffective enforcement that does not go after "the worst of the worst" as the administration promised. Instead, ICE should be focused on smart enforcement. It costs over $18,000 to apprehend a single undocumented person and over $3,300 to detain them on average. For those costs, ICE's focus should be on those who pose a threat to our national security and community's safety. Ultimately, it is the President who is responsible for the discrepancies and inconsistencies we're hearing from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We expected smart enforcement policies from the Obama Administration that targeted the worst of the worst, but we've gotten more of the same from ICE: misguided, ineffective, and expensive enforcement. We can't deport our way to a controlled and orderly system. Instead of pandering to extremists who want to deport everyone, Secretary Napolitano and President Obama must intensify their efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year to restore sanity to the broken immigration system.
Given the chaos and confusion at ICE, we call on Secretary Napolitano to complete an investigation of ICE's policies and procedures to ensure their operations are falling in line with the Administration's directives.
Martine Apodaca (202) 383-5989