NY Times editorial blasts 287(g) and other local enforcement of immigration laws

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Wrong Paths to Immigration Reform – Editorial – NYTimes.com: “Treating the majority of illegal immigrants as potential Americans, not a criminal horde, is the right response…”

I am an expert on immigration detainers. I get calls from all over the country from other lawyers and potential clients telling me their tales of woe of how a lawful or unlawful immigrant came into local custody and now has an immigration detainer. In many instances how the detainer came about was through unlawful activity by the police. There is a certain segment of those in Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as in state and local police who believe that they are justified to use unlawful police action in response to unlawful immigration.

The most unnerving ruse used by state and local police in their unlawful immigration enforcement is to ask persons with brown skin for identification when they are passengers in vehicles. I’ve even seen an arrest and conviction for obstructing an officer when a foreign national did not comply fast enough. I had one case where an Oklahoma trooper arrested a foreign national for not wearing a seatbelt. Have you even heard of someone being arrested for not wearing a seatbelt? In that particular case, the man in question fled his home country due to being tortured. He was beaten by chains which left scars over his body. By using that pretextual arrest to put that man into immigration custody, the trooper might truly be judge, jury and executioner as that man will return to certain death if he ends up being deported.

Again, I ask: “Have you ever heard of anyone being arrested for not wearing a seatbelt?” If you are an immigrant you probably have. And, the problem is that since the summer of 2007 when ICE started pushing heavy enforcement and since November 1, 2007, in Oklahoma when state immigration law House Bill 1804 went into effect, if you are an immigrant whether lawful or not, you can name a lot of abuses of police power. Due to unlawful enforcement activities (arresting someone for not showing their ID quick enough) and abuses of power (such as the seatbelt arrest case), most immigrants in America no longer trust the police.

Victims of crime, whether citizens, visa holders or unlawful immigrants, no longer call police unless they go through a process of weighing the pros and cons. Many times the answer is to not call when robbed. Many times the answer is to not call when raped. Many times the answer is to suck it up and let the perpetrator walk free when drugs are being sold next to a school.

Last year, a friend called me. I did not know she was unlawful. I honestly would never have guessed. She called me because her car was stolen. I called to the police headquarters in Oklahoma City to make sure she would not be arrested if she reported the crime. I received a bothered promise from police headquarters that no such thing would occur. Despite this promise, as soon as the officer arrived to take her report, he asked the woman’s immigration status and threatened to arrest her despite that our local police do not have that particular authority.

In any event, ICE can go a long way toward stopping this craziness by ending the 287(g) program as well as ending its association with cowboy police organizations such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix. The NY Times has it right that we need to start treating many immigrants as potential citizens. However, it should be noted that some of the immigrants who are mistreated by the police already are citizens.