ICE Is ‘Out Of Control’
By Christopher R Rice

Advocates are alleging that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is “more out of control than ever,” going after immigrants aggressively.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network details findings from more than 30 interviews with undocumented immigrants, legal experts and advocates. The authors said ICE has retaliated against protesters; collaborated with rogue law enforcement; and used enforcement operations that function much like raids, picking up people beyond the ones agents say they are looking for.

The report alleges, ICE seems to be attempting to deport as many people as it can.

There have been more than 2 million deportations during Obama’s time in office. In the 2013 fiscal year, immigration agents carried out 438,421 removals — a record number — according to figures
released by the government.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network report accuses ICE of “pursuing a public relations strategy to label each detainee with the stigmatizing categories of ‘criminals’ and conflating the term with ‘those who pose a threat to public safety.’”

The report quotes Francisco Aguirre, a 35-year-old undocumented immigrant who lives in Oregon, who says he was arrested on drug charges when he was 19 years old and pleaded guilty — though he says he was not guilty — on the advice of his lawyer. He was deported to El Salvador in 2000, but returned to the U.S. and has children here. An ICE
spokesman told The Oregonian that Aguirre came to the agency’s attention after he was arrested in August on suspicion of driving under the influence. Aguirre is now taking sanctuary in a church in Oregon.

“ICE says that I am a ‘risk to public safety’ because when I was 19 years old I was arrested with some drug charges. ... So much time has passed since then,” he is quoted as saying in the report. “I have lived in this country for almost 20 years. I have helped build our local organizations and the workers’ center. I have helped my fellow immigrants. I have children who I am raising and providing for. But none of that counts.”

ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the agency has not been able to review the National Day Laborer Organizing Network report, but she defended ICE’s practices. She said the agency has “dramatically changed the way it conducts immigration enforcement” over the past several years by using discretion on whom it targets and focusing on criminals and other priority individuals.

Organizers also said in the report that they are seeing more targeted enforcement operations that turn into broader efforts to net undocumented immigrants. ICE at times goes into neighborhoods purportedly to look for a specific person, but then asks others for their fingerprints, putting them at risk for deportation as well.

“Before ICE used to round people up in the community. Now, they go to people’s houses,” Fernando Lopez, an organizer with the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers, says in the report. “They show them a picture of a person they usually don’t know. Even if the person isn’t there, everyone in the house still gets fingerprinted using the biometric machines. The only difference is ICE makes sure to show people a photograph so that they can say it is targeted enforcement and not a raid.”

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ICE Home Raid

Home raids are a powerful tactic used by federal immigration authorities to enforce immigration law, where agents round up individuals with deportation orders and find additional undocumented immigrants who may otherwise fit the agency's criteria for deportation.

ICE's National Fugitive Operations Program carries out raids through a specialized team. In a home raid, these agents, armed and in uniform, will surround a home -- likely during early morning hours -- and bang on doors ordering occupants to open up. Raids, by their nature, use the elements of surprise, intimidation and shock to catch people off guard and create chaos, writes immigration attorney Josie Gonzalez (

In some cases, immigration authorities may have their guns drawn, but that depends on the perceived risk or danger involved in apprehending a suspect. Some examples of such a scenario would be if the suspect is a known gang member or if agents know there are firearms in the home.

Generally, agents have a court-issued warrant to enter a home. But even without one, agents may enter a home upon receiving consent from the person at the door. Once inside, agents corral occupants for questioning.

Agents aren't limited to arresting their initial targets. Based on information provided by people in the raided homes, agents can make additional arrests. People who admit to being in the country illegally are taken into custody along with others.

What happens to people in the home?

Following arrests and within the span of a few days, arrested immigrants could be deported or "removed." Immigrants who sign voluntary removal forms could be on a bus to the border a few short hours from the time of the raid.

"Many people don't know they have a right to an immigration hearing," said Gloria Curiel, an attorney based in Los Angeles. "Individuals who have no history of criminal activity or the crime was maybe an unpaid ticket -- something minor, should ... not be automatically deported."

Fugitive Operations, the section of ICE responsible for raids, has billed itself as an operation to target the most threatening criminals and terrorist suspects. The reality is that nearly three-quarters of those apprehended had no criminal convictions (

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Rev. Fred Morris North Hills United Methodist Church. Morris says he's ready to defy ICE officials and allow his church to be used as a sanctuary.

Morris, 82. "If ICE wants to come get them, they're going to have to break down the church door."

The seizures motivated church leaders nationwide who say they feel compelled to offer physical protection on their premises even if it violates federal law.

The sanctuary movement gained momentum in 2007 but languished amid hope that comprehensive immigration reform would happen that year. Now, leaders see the movement reemerging.

Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics and other Christian leaders across the country say they are outraged.

The group says immigration officials are violating human rights by using raids as a scare tactic against the immigrant community, and by deporting thousands of Central American refugees back to the gang violence they were escaping in the first place.

A year ago, 35 congregations across the nation promised to offer refuge in their places of worship.

The recent raids sparked such an outcry that now 500 are onboard and prepared to offer physical refuge from ICE.

Rev. John Fife, a former pastor at Southside Presbyterian in Tucson. He co-founded the 1980s sanctuary movement, which gave refuge mostly to adults.

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Section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits the transportation or harboring of illegal aliens.

The Sanctuary Movement community sprang into action to fight back. We are working to ensure all immigrants know what to do in case of a raid, we hold Know Your Rights trainings at congregations that are open to the general public, and organize actions to demand that the Trump Administration and ICE immediately stop all raids.

In addition to our local organizing against the raids, we are actively involved with the national Sanctuary movement of faith-based communities and work to offer a unified response: all raids and deportations violate our shared faith values.

We work to end injustices against immigrants regardless of immigration status, express radical welcome for all, and ensure that values of dignity, justice, and hospitality are lived out in practice and upheld in policy.

Inspired by peaceful movements for social change, we confront violent structures with bold compassion and courageous love.

We are a member-based organization that relies upon the generous contributions of our members and supporters. 100% of our funding comes from individual donors. Thank you for your support.


An academic paper, “
The Acme of the Catholic Left: Catholic Activists in the US Sanctuary Movement, 1982-1992,” states that lay Catholics and Catholic religious figures were “active participants” in the network protecting illegals. The paper said, “Near the peak of national participation in August 1988, of an estimated 464 sanctuaries around the country, 78 were Catholic communities—the largest number provided by any single denomination.”

One group that worked to find churches that would provide sanctuary to immigrants in fear of deportation is called Interfaith Worker Justice, led by Kim Bobo, who was
quoted by PBS in 2007 as saying, “We believe what we are doing is really calling forth a higher law, which is really God’s law, of caring for the immigrant.”     

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