Sample Op-Ed: Off Target Report and Limited Resources

In August 2011, AILA released a report, Immigration Enforcement Off Target: Minor Offenses with Major Consequences, highlighting cases submitted by members wherein local law enforcement questioned individuals about their immigration status. Use this sample op-ed in your local papers explain why DHS needs to prioritize cases in acknowledgement of their limited resources.

With one eye on austerity and the other on reputation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims to manage its limited immigration enforcement budget by prioritizing threats to public safety while also maintaining the highest annual level of deportations ever - almost 400,000 in 2010 at a cost of $5B. Yet, nearly half of those deported last year had no criminal history and thousands of others had misdemeanor convictions for only minor, non-violent crimes.

The practice of immigration enforcement is grossly out of sync from DHS's stated policy priorities and reveals a willingness to deport any undocumented immigrant even though most Americans believe that mass deportation is an impossible task. For example, DHS along with local law enforcement, spent financial resources and manpower to pick up a San Francisco area high school graduate from a local park, take him to jail, identify him as undocumented, and get him placed in deportation proceedings. That graduate has been in the U.S. since he was four years old, has no criminal history, and was never charged with a crime at the police station.

This case is not anomalous. A new report form the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Immigration Enforcement Off Target: Minor Offenses with Major Consequences, includes 127 cases from across the country wherein undocumented immigrants are stopped by police for only minor offenses such as traffic violations and soon placed into deportation proceedings.

This is not an appropriate use of funds for a nation that is pinching every one of its pennies at the federal and state levels. California, mired in financial crisis, and lay offs that have touched every industry including police departments, is in no position to spend resources in a less than strategic manner. Furthermore, heavy handed local police engagement in immigration enforcement can ultimately be detrimental to community safety because of the chilling effect it creates in immigrant communities.

The blurring of criminal and civil law enforcement often creates fear among immigrants which makes them less willing to report crimes, serve as witnesses, or receive assistance as victims. Another example from the report is of a victim of a hit and run car accident who called the police for help, only to be questioned by the officer about his immigration status - which was undocumented. That man was deported to Mexico and his legal permanent resident wife and U.S. citizen child moved there as well.

In a time of economic uncertainty, when we are worried about our financial solvency as a nation, and as individuals, we should not be spending money outside of our targeted goals.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 11081837.