Immigration

ICE Changes Its Talk, Not Its Walk

How many detainee deaths under Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s custody remain unreported?

 The recent decision by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to suspend an absurd policy that imposed arrest quotas on the detention of the undocumented is welcome news. It is a tiny bit of relief in the midst of a generally worrisome landscape.

But the statements made by ICE director John Morton are not enough to ensure that immigration officers —and their law enforcement partners— won’t continue to commit excesses in the performance of their duties. The chief failed to engender any confidence that the federal agency will monitor their actions so that they engage in actively searching for dangerous criminals who are undocumented rather than arresting and deporting the heads of families who commit misdemeanors.

For its part, ICE’s failure to stop the abuses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Ariz. is another example of either the agency’s apathy or inability, or both. In fact, there is a Department of Justice investigation of Arpaio and the accusations are serious enough to support a suspension of ICE’s arrangement with the sheriff while the case is under review.

Morton’s statement that ICE will review the agreements with local law enforcement agencies regarding the application of the 287(g) program are empty words while Arpaio and many others continue to act as they please.

The fact is, ICE does no better job of oversight of its internal operations than it does of its outside partners. The previously unreported deaths of 10 immigrants arrested by ICE over the past years have now come to light, and only because of media investigations into the cases. Given the past record of mistreatment at these centers, it is appropriate at this time to ask: How many more detainee deaths under ICE’s custody remain unreported?

The Obama administration is ultimately responsible for the operations of ICE and for the ways in which the federal agency and its local law enforcement partners act with impunity. Morton’s statements certainly don’t reassure us. The suspension of arrest quotas gives some hope as does the announcement of stronger federal oversight at the detention centers. However, actions speak louder than words, especially when it comes to ICE.

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