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Disturbing Immigration Enforcement Tactics Underscore Need for Real Reform

by Dara Lind on 12/22/2009 at 12:46pm

A pair of stories published last week reveal disturbing new frontiers in immigration enforcement and underscore the urgent need for real reform.

An article by Jacqueline Stevens in the Nation uncovers several “ruse operations,” in which federal immigration (ICE) agents posed as insurance agents, couriers, and even Mormon missionaries in order to collect information on undocumented immigrants or lure them somewhere to be arrested. Here’s one representative example:

“A ruse operation about five years ago still rankles Kentucky attorney Julia Thorne. Thorne received a phone call from a man saying he was with a courier service, wanting to confirm her address. Shortly after that, one of her clients, a Polish horse teaser living in the area since 1993, received a call from a man who identified himself as ‘Bill, the new guy in Julia’s office’ and asked the client to stop by Thorne’s office and sign some papers–despite the fact that Thorne works alone. Two ICE agents were waiting and arrested him in the lobby. Thorne, eight floors above, had no idea until she received a call from her client in ICE custody.

“When Thorne complained to the Louisville ICE office, she was told, ‘No, your client’s making that up. We said we were a courier service.” When she asked, “How did he happen to show up in my lobby when you were there?’ they said it didn’t happen.”

While most of the operations Stevens recounts took place under the Bush administration, she warns that ICE’s current focus on “targeted stealth operations” instead of the highly-criticized workplace raids could make these tactics more common. One researcher quoted in the piece observes that the effect of the ruses is to “send a shudder through the immigrant community, but without the dominant community finding out.”

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