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NY Immigrants Living in Limbo With Policies Under Review

March 3, 2009

New York, NY — Thousands of immigrants have been deported and many more have been subjected to controversial raids. However, the Obama administration may be ready to break with Bush-era policies. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's intention to review the handling of deportations and other immigration enforcement practices is reason for hope for some New York immigrants.

In the meantime, though, many feel like they're living in limbo. Reverend Richard Witt of Rural and Migrant Ministries in Hudson Valley says news about the reviews is welcome, but does not erase the fears of those who are still regularly subjected to aggressive enforcement tactics by local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

"Whether they are getting off the bus in Rochester, or having the Amtrak train stopped outside of Syracuse, or having raids take place in their homes in the middle of the night — people are living in fear."

Gabriela Villareal, immigration policy coordinator for the New York Immigration Coalition, says Homeland Security should focus its review on who is being targeted and how ICE raids are conducted.

"First of all, the necessity to even use such military-type forces on such raids - and really determine if this is what we should be going after as a country - people who are workers? Or should we be diverting our resources toward people who are true national security threats?"

Villareal hopes the president ends the practice of what she calls "paramilitary raids" on undocumented workers.

ICE says its goal is to detain dangerous fugitives. In Witt's opinion, the raids are inhumane and bad for the local economy. Members of New York's Haitian community are closely following Napolitano's review of a Miami immigration case that could affect tens of thousands of Haitians who face deportation.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY