Friday, May 24, 2024

Homeland Security Signals Policy Changes Ahead for Immigration Raids

As reported in the Washington Post, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids.

A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in which agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will choose to prosecute businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.

“ICE is now scrutinizing these cases more thoroughly to ensure that [targets] are being taken down when they should be taken down, and that the employer is being targeted and the surveillance and the investigation is being done how it should be done,” said the official, discussing Napolitano’s views about sensitive law enforcement matters on the condition of anonymity.

“There will be a change in policy, but in the interim, you’ve got to scrutinize the cases coming up,” the senior DHS official said, emphasizing Napolitano’s expectations as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.

According to another DHS official, Napolitano plans to release protocols this week to ensure that work-site investigations are fair and have less “haphazard” decision-making.

Napolitano’s moves have led some to question President Obama’s commitment to work-site raids, which were a signature staple of the Bush administration efforts to fight illegal immigration. Recently, Napolitano has highlighted other priorities, such as combating Mexican drug cartels and catching dangerous criminals who are illegal immigrants.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus made similar calls for reforming workplace immigration raids when the CHC met formally with Obama for the first time earlier this month.

Pelosi said, “Raids that break up families in that way, just kick in the door in the middle of the night, taking [a] father, a parent away, that’s just not the American way. It must stop.”

Conservatives and centrist Democrats are criticizing Obama saying that workplace enforcement is needed to reduce the supply of jobs that attract illegal immigrants.

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) led Congress this year in ordering ICE to spend $127 million on workplace operations, $34 million more than President George W. Bush had requested. Reducing those amounts, even in ICE’s overall $5 billion budget, would provoke a fight, senior aides in both parties said.

Napolitano has said she intends to focus more on prosecuting criminal cases of wrongdoing by companies. Analysts say they also think ICE may conduct fewer raids, focusing routine enforcement on civil infractions of worker eligibility verification rules.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group, says groups such as his support Obama’s focus on going after bad employers and criminal illegal immigrants first — or as he put it, prioritizing “drug smugglers, not window washers.”

Washington Post