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Raids Targeting Undocumented Workers

February 13, 2009

New York, NY — A NY investigation concludes that federal agents making Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids were ordered to change their mission, shifting focus from the most dangerous undocumented immigrants to just making lots of arrests. A New York law school, using the Freedom of Information Act to review internal memos, has found that Immigration agents, who's mission was to capture dangerous suspects and undocumented immigrants suspected of terrorism, actually arrested illegal workers without arrest records 75 percent of the time.

Peter Markowitz, director of the Immigration Justice Clinic at New York’s Cardozo School of Law, says the Bush administration changed the mission of the National Fugitive Operation Program in 2006, but never told Congress. He says special agent teams that once targeted 125 dangerous aliens per year, were ordered to arrest 1,000 aliens a year, and not to concern themselves with danger level.

"That created tremendous bureaucratic pressure on these teams to make more arrests. So, they went after the easiest arrests possible — people who pose no danger, but are simply status violators."

Attorney Ghita Shwarz, with Latino Justice, represents 30 immigrant New Yorkers; many of them legal residents and even citizens, who had ICE agents storm their homes in pre-dawn hours.

"We want this policy to stop. Warrantless raids into homes are never OK. These raids were affected in a particularly brutal manner; several of our clients are minors; some very very young minors."

Shwarz says federal officials admitted they had no warrants to enter any of the homes, but argued they were given permission to enter. She plans to certify the case as a class action lawsuit against individual agents and the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigration officials defend the modified program, saying the number of non-citizens with outstanding deportation orders dropped by 70,000 in the last year. The study by the Migration Policy Institute revealed the program cost $625 million.

The MPI study may be found at

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY