Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­gered, dis­mayed by ICE raid on il­le­gals

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Im­mi­grant rights groups blasted Pres­i­dent Obama on Feb. 25 for break­ing what they called his “per­sonal com­mit­ment” to change Bush-era im­mi­gra­tion raids af­ter U.S. au­thor­i­ties raided an en­gine ma­chine shop in Wash­ing­ton state and de­tained il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion it­self seemed taken aback by the raid by U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents, with Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano vow­ing to Congress that she would “get to the bot­tom of this.”

“The sec­re­tary is not happy and this is not her pol­icy,” a Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said Feb. 25, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the sec­re­tary’s re­view is on­go­ing.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said “th­ese raids are not a long-term so­lu­tion.”

“Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano is con­duct­ing a thor­ough re­view of ICE, in­clud­ing en­force­ment,” Mr. Shapiro said. “The pres­i­dent be­lieves we must re­spect due process and our best val­ues as we en­force the law. The real an­swer to our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is to fix it. The pres­i­dent has said that we will start the im­mi­gra­tion re­form de­bate this year, and this con­tin­ues to be the plan.”

The raid in Belling­ham, Wash., was the first ma­jor work­place en- force­ment action since Mr. Obama took of­fice, but the sec­ond time a law en­force­ment action has an­gered the White House.

A sim­i­lar back­lash en­sued ear­lier in Fe­bru­ary when the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion raided med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries in Cal­i­for­nia, de­spite Mr. Obama’s cam­paign pledges not to in­ter­fere with state laws on the mat­ter. In that in­stance, the White House said Mr. Obama hadn’t put his peo­ple in place.

Home­land Se­cu­rity stepped up high-pro­file im­mi­gra­tion work­site raids and took steps to im­prove bor­der se­cu­rity af­ter Congress in 2007 re­jected Pres­i­dent Bush’s im­mi­gra­tion bill, which would have le­gal­ized il­le­gal im­mi­grants and rewrit­ten the rules on fu­ture le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Mr. Obama crit­i­cized im­mi­gra­tion work-site raids as “in­ef­fec­tive” and said the fo­cus in­stead should be on em­ploy­ers who hire il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Im­mi­grant rights groups said this week’s raid seemed to go against that.

“This was a fix­ture of our con­ver­sa­tions and de­mands with him dur­ing the cam­paign. It has al­ways been one that there would be a hold on the raids or a stop to the raids un­til there was a thor­ough re­view of its ef­fec­tive­ness and whether it has been a fis­cally re­spon­si­ble course of action,” said Cyn­thia Buiza, di­rec­tor of pol­icy and ad­vo­cacy at the Coali­tion for Hu­mane Im­mi­grant Rights of Los An­ge­les. “This is all about hold­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials ac­count­able to the things they promised dur­ing the cam­paign.”

The Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza urged sup­port­ers to call the White House and de­mand Mr. Obama lay out his im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, while the Na­tional Im­mi­gra­tion Fo­rum said the raid was an un­wel­come con­tin­u­a­tion of Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion poli­cies.

“What are Latino and im­mi­grant vot­ers to think? They turn out in mas­sive num­bers and vote for change and yet ‘change we can be­lieve in’ turns out to be ‘busi­ness as usual,’ “ said Ali Noorani, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the fo­rum.

He called for a halt to the raids while Home­land Se­cu­rity con­ducts its re­view of im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

In a state­ment, ICE said the raid was the re­sult of a gang in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“In­for­ma­tion de­rived from two gang mem­bers pre­vi­ously ar­rested in an ICE gang op­er­a­tion led to the ini­ti­a­tion of the work­site in­ves­ti­ga­tion at Yam­ato En­gine Spe­cial­ists,” said press sec­re­tary Kelly Nan­tel. “Fol­low-up in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­cov­ered a poten-

“[Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano] is not happy and this is not her pol­icy,” a Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said Feb. 25, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the sec­re­tary’s re­view is on­go­ing.

tially large num­ber of il­le­gally em­ployed work­ers. ICE con­ducted the op­er­a­tion in or­der to iden­tify and if ap­pro­pri­ate, ap­pre­hend any unau­tho­rized work­ers and to fur­ther de­ter­mine po­ten­tial crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.”

Mr. Noorani said “an­kle chains and he­li­copters” were both used in the raid, but Ms. Napoli­tano de­nied in her tes­ti­mony to the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee that he­li­copters were used.

She said she had been briefed on the raid, but still has many ques­tions.

“I want to get to the bot­tom of this as well, so I’ve al­ready is­sued those di­rec­tives to ICE to get me some an­swers,” she said.

She is still get­ting her key peo­ple in place. Mr. Obama nom­i­nated John Mor­ton, a Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial, to head ICE ear­lier last week.

Ms. Napoli­tano said she ex­pects ICE ac­tions at work sites to fo­cus on em­ploy­ers “who in­ten­tion­ally and know­ingly ex­ploit the il­le­gal la­bor mar­ket.”

“That has im­pacts on Amer­i­can work­ers, it has im­pacts on wage lev­els, of­ten has un­due im­pacts on the il­le­gal work­ers them­selves, and our ICE ef­forts should be fo­cused on those sorts of things and we should re­ally have thought through the pros­e­cu­tions that are go­ing to re­sult and the de­por­ta­tions that will re­sult af­ter any sort of work-force action,” she said.

Rep. Zoe Lof­gren, the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat who ques­tioned Miss Napoli­tano on the raids, said the laws need to be en­forced but said raids, in­clud­ing the one Feb. 24, have swept up le­gal res­i­dents and cit­i­zens as well.

“There is con­cern that Amer­i­cans have re­peat­edly, in the past years, been held in some cases for 10 and 11 hours against their will, and it does not seem to com­port with the re­quire­ments of the law or the Con­sti­tu­tion,” she said, ask­ing the sec­re­tary to ad­dress that is­sue in her re­view.

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