Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Blog

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation in Detroit last week has produced a strong backlash after immigration officials detained two undocumented immigrants in front of their children’s schools. Jorge Hernandez and Hector Orozco Villa were followed by ICE agents as they drove their children to class, and were detained blocks from the school buildings.

The operation and subsequent community outcry underscores the tense and complex relationship between community members, immigration officials, and Obama administration directives. ICE agents had previously promised to refrain from conducting raids near schools, churches, and other community gathering points, and have been tasked by the Obama administration with focusing immigration resources on criminals, repeat offenders, and threats to national security.

Last week’s raid clearly demonstrates the limitations of these promises. Mr. Hernandez, whose only previous offense was an expired driver’s license, was stopped across the street from his daughter’s school, with his wife and seven-year-old son in the car. His son is reported to have asked the immigration officials, “Please don’t take my dad. We want to go to school.”

“It is very alarming to me to have this happen during the rush hour of people taking their children to school,” said Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic state representative in an interview with The New York Times. “We are really worried about the impact on these United States citizen children.”

ICE officials have denied any wrongdoing, arguing that “the arrest of a priority target…was in full compliance of the stated policies and procedures of the agency.” Community members believe that the agency has violated its own policies, and have called for the resignation of Rebecca Adducci, the director of ICE in Detroit. ICE agents in Detroit have been involved in at least half a dozen cases of Constitutional violations since May, according to the Alliance for Immigrant Rights & Reform Michigan. Ryan Bates, the organization’s director, has referred to the ICE office in Detroit as “out of control.”

Regardless of the technical legality of their actions, these types of operations demonstrate the disconnect between the stated objectives of immigration policymakers and the actions of their agents on the ground. The Obama administration has a clear opportunity to denounce the operation, and reiterate his opposition to wasting resources to break up families and prosecute otherwise peaceful Americans.

Mr. Hernandez was questioned and eventually released, but Mr. Orozco remains in custody.

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