It may be too cynical to explain large-scale immigration enforcement sweeps as a sign that this is an election year. But last week’s 6-day national crackdown, in which nearly 3,000 people were arrested, shows how divided political opinion is on immigration issues.
Apparently all of the people arrested last week have criminal convictions on their records. But in Minnesota and across the country, the reality is that tens of thousands of people every year need a deportation defense lawyer. Last year alone, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency deported nearly 400,000 people.
John Morton, the director of ICE, says the agency is increasingly focused on illegal immigrants who pose public safety risks – and not on law-abiding families who happen to be undocumented.
“Contrary to the accusations of some,” Morton said, “we are not refusing to enforce the law, nor are we targeting families and low-priority cases.”
One person leveling such accusations has been Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He asserts that the Obama administration has been overly lenient in its response to some of the 11 million people who are estimated to be in the country illegally.
Human rights advocacy groups have a much different view. These groups claim that ICE continues to deport people whose only offense is entering the U.S. illegally.
A few states have tried to put in place laws making it a state crime to be present as an illegal alien. Such laws, however, are under legal challenge. The Arizona law is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Source: “3,100 arrested in 6-day immigration sweep,” Alan Gomez, USA Today, 4-2-12