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Weekly Diaspora: Quiet Raids, Slippery ICE and Grinches

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This post is a weekly feature by Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is shifting its focus to silent or “quiet” raids, as Erin Rosa reports for Campus Progress. In quiet raids, ICE conducts “audits” of staff at pre-selected organizations and gives employers a chance to fire all workers who cannot produce documents of citizenship.

The Bush administration favored dramatic, SWAT-like raids, but the Obama administration is taking a non-confrontational route. As Rosa reports, ICE has announced the latest wave of audits ahead of time, though specific business are not being named “due to the ongoing, law enforcement sensitive nature” of the audits. During a phone briefing, ICE chief John Morton explained that the “over 1,000” new audits are designed to “create a ‘culture of consequences.'” Undoubtedly, the economic consequence of tens of thousands more people losing their income will be as dramatic as a door kicked open in the middle of the night, and it will affect all of us.

While job loss is undesirable, at least the audits are not aggressive or violent like some raids. Also, undocumented workers could find another job post-audit. The Obama administration’s claims that audits take the burden of raids from workers is defensible in that case, though reports of employers that are fined for having undocumented staff members are hard to find.

However, the Department of Homeland Security’s practice of jailing “unadjusted” refugees after a year is indefensible. As Emily Creighton reports for AlterNet, the U.S. has a long-running and proud history of providing a safe haven for those seeking refuge from persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.” And yet ICE is incarcerating refugees who have not adjusted to permanent resident status after one year of residency in the U.S. The problem is, permanent resident status is only obtained after a lot of paperwork, vaccinations, and other hurdles have been completed. The process “can take over a year” in and of itself.

A depressed economy and perceived cultural shifts in the U.S. demographic are bringing out the very best and worst of our society. In RaceWire, Michelle Chen writes that the immigration debate today “looks more like a balance sheet” and reflects “the economic anxieties besieging politicians and voters.” Chen does an excellent job underlining a recurring problem: As long as immigration reform is treated like a “number-crunching” exercise, nothing gets fixed. “Without a human rights-based counterpoint to the demand-supply rhetoric,” Chen writes, “lawmakers would be all too willing to cede immigration policy to the corporate gatekeepers of the private sector, while faithfully preserving the structure of inequity.” We can do better than this. “These are numbers, not people.”