ACLU: Police Enforcing Immigration Laws 'Terrorize' America

Penny Starr | Senior Staff Writer | Thursday, May 22, 2008

ACLU: Police Enforcing Immigration Laws 'Terrorize' America

( - Police that help the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arm of the Department of Homeland Security enforce federal immigration laws are targeting Latinos and "terrorizing" people across the United States, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said at a briefing on Capitol Hill on Monday.

"Local law enforcement has been given the green light to engage in racial profiling," Joanne Lin, a legislative counsel with the ACLU, said at the briefing held by the Appleseed Foundation, a non-profit network of 16 public interest justice centers in the United States and Mexico.

"Massive immigration sweeps are terrorizing communities across the country, including those who are U.S. citizens, permanent residents and other lawful workers," she stated.

Lin, on a panel with five other speakers, said the ACLU opposed section 287(g) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law by designated officers who have been trained and are under the supervision of ICE officers.

"It's always been the ACLU's position that immigration is exclusively a federal law," Lin said. "Our view is that it's not the appropriate constitutional use of state and local power."

But Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies and editor-in-chief of The Cato Supreme Court Review, said there is nothing unconstitutional about states cooperating with the federal government.

"The government cannot force states to cooperate, but if it's done voluntarily, there is nothing unconstitutional about that," Shapiro said.

In 2007, ICE removed more than 280,000 people who were in the United States illegally, and Pat Reilly, public affairs officer with the agency, said that twice that number are expected to be repatriated by the end of 2008 -- with the continuing success of the partnership between Homeland Security and state and local police.

"The cross-designation between ICE and state and local patrol officers, detectives, investigators and correctional officers working in conjunction with ICE allows these local and state officers the necessary resources and latitude to pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offences, narcotic smuggling and money laundering," Reilly said.

At Monday's briefing, Lin spoke about the federal lawsuit filed against the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department by the ACLU and the family on behalf of Pedro Guzman, the Associated Press reported. Guzman is a mentally disabled man who was arrested for trespassing, had no identification and was deported to Mexico.

Guzman, who is a U.S. citizen, was found by relatives near a border crossing almost three months later. When asked by Cybercast News Service if Guzman was an isolated case or if the ACLU had statistics showing how many U.S. citizens are mistakenly deported, Lin said she did not have any numbers but suspected there were other such cases.

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