The U.S. Government’s War on Terror has transgressed into a War on Immigrants. Since September 11, 2001, Washington’s attempt to secure the nation’s borders has not only sent waves of fear through the immigrant community but has undermined the nation’s long-standing principles of providing shelter and refuge to those fleeing tyranny, intolerance and hunger.1
Federal dragnets with code names like Operation Endgame and Return to Sender target immigrants who have broken no criminal laws, yet are treated like hardened criminals, with no right to a court-appointed lawyer. Fugitive Operations teams from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested over 30,000 immigrants in fiscal year 2007, nearly doubling the 2006 arrests.2
ICE detainees now represent the fastest growing prison population in the U.S., costing taxpayers more than $1.2 billion a year.3 The new laws, programs and strategies aimed at strengthening our borders and controlling immigration in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks have not only failed to make us safer; they have fueled an anti-immigrant hysteria.
Immigrant neighborhoods around the country have been the targets of massive sweeps by both local and federal law enforcement.4 Town and state officials have passed laws punishing immigrants and those who offer them shelter. And, as a weakening economy has prodded disgruntled Americans into a search for scapegoats, many hard-working, tax-paying immigrants with significant ties to the U.S., full-time jobs and American spouses and children, have been forced underground.5 Even when they have been victims of hate crimes, they avoid contact with law enforcement.
My agency, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), has met with thousands of these immigrants since 9/11. A non-profit group dedicated to protecting the basic rights of immigrants, FIAC has documented their stories to put a face on the injustices being committed against them.
Our work has provided ample evidence that the barrage of anti-immigrant laws and regulations, often propelled by right-wing rhetoric, is an assault on the fundamental civil liberties of all. But our research also makes clear that driving immigrants further underground does nothing to fix our broken immigration system.
It only makes matters worse…
Tags: Border patrol, Cheryl Little, Florida Immigration Advocacy Center, Fugitive Operations team, Immigration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, The War on Immigrants: Stories from the Front Lines