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New Report Calls for Shift in Immigration Enforcement Priorities

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Today, America’s Voice released a new report that shows that the previous Administration’s immigration enforcement priorities were focused on the wrong targets.  The report, The Obama Opportunity on Immigration Enforcement, finds that “the Bush Administration’s priorities for immigration enforcement led to missed opportunities to strengthen immigration enforcement, crackdown on unscrupulous employers, and secure the border. The Administration was distracted by a focus on garden variety immigration law violators rather than unscrupulous employers and dangerous criminals.”

On a press call this morning, Frank Sharry, Founder and Executive Director of America’s Voice, said that the report contained “evidence that the previous Administration got immigration enforcement exactly backwards.  They decided to focus enforcement resources on undocumented workers rather than unscrupulous employers and dangerous criminals, to the detriment of community safety and fixing the broken immigration system.”

The report finds that in the workplace, the Bush Administration’s immigration enforcement strategy focused intensely on punishing immigrant workers, while employers who broke labor and immigration laws were much less of a priority.  In the interior of the country, the government targeted undocumented workers over criminals and ramped up federal prosecutions for immigration offenses, neglecting other priorities in the bargain.  And while the Bush Administration slashed funding for programs to assist state and local police in fighting crime, it increased funding for expanded state and local roles in civil immigration enforcement.

Manny Ruiz, Supervisor, Santa Cruz (AZ) County Board of Supervisors and President of the U.S./Mexico Border Counties Coalition said that, “the federal government must realize that border communities are picking up the costs for its failures on illegal immigration.  When our communities go to Washington and ask for reimbursement for actual costs, previous Administrations have left it to our counties to pick up the tab.”  Ruiz continued: “I commend the new Administration for trying to find strategic ways to take on this issue and for not pushing it under the table.  Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano both understand the importance of working with Mexico to deal with security issues in the region, and that is a hopeful sign.  I hope the new Administration will continue to move forward in supporting our border communities, making sure we have the resources we need to ensure safety and security along the border, and ultimately passing comprehensive immigration reform.”

The report also finds that in 2007 and 2008, 98% of all immigration-related arrests at workplaces and nearly 90% of all criminal arrests at workplaces were of undocumented workers, rather than their employers. 

“We have experienced the devastation and the destruction that workplace immigration raids have inflicted on workers, both immigrant and native born,” said Esther Lopez, Director of Civil Rights and Community Action, United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).  “We have documented repeated examples of racial profiling, U.S. citizens detained against their will and young children living in fear that ICE agents will take away their parents. The heavy handed tactics that were the hallmark of the Bush Administration were nothing more than headline grabbing attempts to look tough on immigration and to cover up their complete failure to address the broader issue of immigration reform.” 

The report concludes that the Obama Administration should pursue effective immigration enforcement strategies that are focused like a laser on the worst offenders-the employers who use our broken immigration system to undercut workers and law‐abiding competitors, the criminals who hide in the shadows, and the smugglers who profit from our broken immigration system.  “Part of comprehensive reform to the broken immigration system involves tough and smart enforcement,” said Frank Sharry.  “We need to focus our energies and enforcement resources on real crime and real criminals, and develop a practical policy to deal with the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country so that our enforcement resources are targeted at the truly bad actors.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.