Washington, D.C., is sending mixed signals about how to enforce immigration law, and immigrants and their families are suffering the consequences.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security executed the first work-site immigration raid of the Obama administration. Twenty-eight workers, including three mothers, were chained and arrested in a manufacturing plant in Bellingham, Washington, as part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations. News reports now say DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano wasn't aware of the raid until Wednesday and has now called for a full investigation in her department. Her public position is that work-site enforcement needs to be focused on the employers. Apparently, ICE officials in Washington state didn't get the memo.
This scenario has played out in the Obama administration, which promised change when it comes to immigration reform. Raids separate families and create fear in communities, and our president has said so himself. In Obama's own words,
When communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn't working and we need to change it.
Immigration raids are ineffective: Despite a sevenfold increase in recent years, immigration raids only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.
Today, a White House spokesman agreed that raids are not a long-term solution.
We applaud Secretary Napolitano for insisting on a full review of the actions which led to the raid. We ask President Obama, whose personal commitment to solving this crisis is clear, to permanently shelve the Bush-era enforcement raids and instead focus on making comprehensive immigration reform a reality in Congress.
Jennifer Svetlik is an organizing assistant for Sojourners,
and Allison Johnson is the campaign coordinator for Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR).