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The Department of Homeland Security claims that they are starting to review the immigration cases and provide training for proper and prioritized enforcement, saying:
“This development will lessen the burden of immigration judges and provide them the resources they need to make sure they are deporting violent criminals first. We all can agree that national security risks and convicted criminals should be the top priority for deportation and that their cases can be expedited. With 300,000 cases overflowing the dockets of our country’s 59 immigration courts, this policy must be effectively pursued.”
However, ICE actions show that Obama’s deportation policy is still not evenly applied. Though they assure the public that they do not arrest low-priority law-abiding undocumented immigrants, they seem to have another attitude behind closed doors.
Last week two undocumented, DREAM Act-eligible immigrant activists presented themselves to immigration agents in Mobile, Alabama, and were subsequently put in detention and placed in deportation proceedings, to prove exactly that point.
Perez and Barrera (the two undocumented DREAMers) announced their detainment a day after 13 undocumented immigrant activists who organized a highly publicized civil disobedience action in the Alabama statehouse earlier this week were released. Activists were arrested yesterday after protesting Alabama’s HB 56, the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant state law in the very building where it was crafted. This group was comprised of activists with the identical profile as Perez and Barrera—young people who immigrated to the country as children and had no criminal convictions on their record.
ICE claims to be following the Obama administration’s hands-off policy towards non-criminal undocumented immigrants, such as these youth activists.
Yet, away from the media spotlight, immigrant activists say the Obama administration has another agenda entirely. And that agenda’s got a mandate to deport immigrants at a breakneck speed — even if the folks they deport do not fall within the agency’s own definition of those who are a high priority for removal. Since he’s been in office Obama’s deported nearly 400,000 people every year, far outpacing the deportation rate of every other president before him and every year toppling his own records. The enforcement strategy continues in the face of an congressional impasse over immigration reform.
“ICE keeps on saying they don’t deport DREAMers or low-level offenders but that same day [as the Tuesday action] we were transferred to this detention center,” Perez said. “We have the paperwork. We’re in deportation proceedings.”
This does prove an important point, however, for those afraid to speak out for their rights:
The lesson, they believe, is that undocumented immigrants are safer when they come forward and organize instead of cowering in the shadows. It’s there that ICE does most of its enforcement work, they say. It’s there where it’s impossible to hold them accountable.