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ICE Agents Are Ignoring Finer Points of Immigration Law

Courtesy of ICE

Courtesy of ICE

By Sandra Hernandez
Los Angeles Times

Whenever U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement insists it is just doing its job, Americans should take a closer look at what is happening.

With an executive order signed in his first week in office, President Trump has “taken the shackles off” ICE and Border Patrol officers, according to the White House, expanding the priorities for deporting immigrants.  Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly claims his agents will focus on those convicted of or charged with crimes, but immigrant advocacy groups and the news media already have documented arrests, detentions and deportations of  immigrants who in no way represent a threat to public safety.

From 2006 through early 2010, I reported on Immigration and Customs Enforcement. What I learned was that no matter the ostensible priorities of federal agencies — or even settled law — ICE was an agency prone to overreach.

In those days, immigration agents liked to roll out press releases touting the successes of their  “fugitive operations.” The releases detailed how violent gang members, sexual predators and other criminals were taken off the streets. Time and again, I pressed the agency for detailed information on those arrested only to discover the detainees were neither fugitives nor serious criminals.

Instead, I found longtime green card holders who had been convicted decades earlier of minor offenses.  Or who were ordered deported in absentia, in some cases because they had moved or the wrong paperwork had been filed.  Among the detainees without green cards, many simply didn’t come close to fitting the description “danger to society.” They were street vendors, construction workers, janitors and small business owners, albeit without papers.

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