On the front page of today’s New York Times, Julia Preston has written an article about the Obama administration’s deportation policy — and the impacts it is having on immigrants in New Orleans. ICE has stepped up enforcement in that city — and families are being torn apart. There’s an especially disturbing aspect to this. As the article notes, it appears that ICE is engaged in racial profiling: “some people seemed to be stopped based solely on their Latino appearance.”
Last week, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice released a report on the situation in New Orleans, which lays out the evidence: “New Report Documents Alarming Rise of Community Immigration Raids in New Orleans,”:
The little-known Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program, called the Criminal Alien Removal Initiative (CARI), involves indiscriminate community raids by ICE squads at apartment complexes, grocery stores, laundromats, Bible study groups, and other public places frequented by Latinos—based purely on racial profiling.
“As 2013 comes to a close without the passage of immigration reform, New Orleans is experiencing the new frontier in immigration enforcement: a stop and ‘stop and frisk’ program for the immigrant community,” said Saket Soni, NOWCRJ Executive Director and report co-author. “Without immediate action, the race-based raids being piloted in New Orleans will become the new normal across the country.”
“President Obama has the legal authority and moral responsibility to stop the deportations, and we’re calling on him to use it,” Soni said.
Karen Sandoval’s promising life in this city fell apart in one day last summer when she went to buy school supplies for her two daughters.
Ms. Sandoval, a Honduran immigrant here illegally, was riding with the man her girls have always called their father. Immigration agents, seeing a dilapidated car, pulled them over. They released Ms. Sandoval but detained her partner, a Nicaraguan also here illegally, and he was soon deported.
Now Ms. Sandoval, 28, is grieving her loss and scrambling to support her children without her partner, Enrique Morales, and the income from his thriving flooring business. She sees no future for the girls, who are both American citizens, in her home country or his. So Ms. Sandoval is facing the possibility that she may never see Mr. Morales again.
“It is very difficult to explain to two little girls that Daddy will not be with us anymore,” Ms. Sandoval said.
Since taking office, President Obama has deported more than 1.9 million foreigners, immigration officials announced last week, a record for an American president. The officials said they focused on removing criminals, serious immigration offenders and recent border crossers, with 98 percent of deportees in 2013 in those groups, while sparing workers and their families. Mr. Obama is also pressing for an overhaul of immigration laws with a path to citizenship for those here illegally.
But immigrant leaders say the enforcement has a broad impact on their communities, with deportations still separating bread-winning parents from children and unauthorized immigrants from family members here legally, including American citizens.
And, this excerpt also raises serious questions about the ICE policy and its targeting of immigrants:
“Our people feel they can’t go to the store to buy food or walk their children to school,” said Santos Alvarado, 51, a Honduran construction worker who joined the protest here even though he has legal papers. “We couldn’t be quiet any longer.”
Many immigrants here have been stunned by the arrests, in which some people seemed to be stopped based solely on their Latino appearance, because they had been living here uneventfully since they came in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to work on reconstruction.
One of those workers, Jimmy Barraza, was unloading a carful of groceries on Aug. 16 when agents pulled up with pistols drawn, handcuffing him as well as his teenage son, a United States citizen. A mobile fingerprint check of Mr. Barraza, who is also Honduran, revealed an old court order for his deportation.
Mr. Barraza, 28, won release from detention but is still fighting to remain. His wife is a longtime legal immigrant, and he has two other younger children who are American citizens.
“If they deport me,” he said, “who will keep my son in line? Who will support my family?”
Another Honduran, Irma Lemus, was packing fishing rods for a day on the bayou when cruising immigration agents spotted her family and stopped. A fingerprint check revealed that Ms. Lemus, too, had a deportation order.
“They handcuffed me in front of my children,” she recalled, speaking of a son who is 2 and a daughter who is 4.
This only increases the need to executive and legislative action on immigration. As we’ve said repeatedly, we need both:
[The Obama administration] claim[s] that the only answer is legislation – which really is the best and most permanent solution – but refuse to simultaneously use their substantial administrative authority to rein in the out-of-control detention and deportation machinery. The time is now for the Administration to do its part to stop deporting people who are anything but ‘criminals’ and have deep roots and make huge contributions to the country they now call home.”