How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report: 'ICE did not clearly communicate...the intent of Secure Communities'

Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Immigration officials may not have intentionally misled lawmakers or the public about the controversial Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, but their communication strategy was a mess, according to an investigation by Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General.

The OIG investigation was requested last year by California's Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from San Jose, after states and local jurisdictions trying to withdraw from the federal fingerprint-sharing program began learning they could not. It's one of two new OIG reports related to Secure Communities, the other addressing the program's operations.

The communications analysis is perhaps the most interesting of the two, among other things examining the Secure Communities memorandums of agreement, called MOAs, which states and jurisdictions signed after the program began rolling out in late 2008.


A growing number of deported parents

Photo by Brian Auer/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A man in Playas de Tijuana, on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border fence, September 2008

Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

A post last week examined an attempt by some California lawmakers to keep the children of deported immigrants out of foster care, a growing problem as record deportations lead to more separated families. It briefly cited a new federal report on deported parents that had just begun trickling out to legislators.

The details of the report, now making the rounds, are impressive. During the period between January 1, 2011 and June 30, 2011, according to the report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 46,486 immigrants from the country who claimed to be the parent of at least one U.S. citizen child.

The seven-page report to Congress is part of a federal response to lawmakers seeking more data from ICE on deported parents of U.S. citizen children. Interestingly, it cites a Homeland Security estimate from 2009 that tallied more than 100,000 parents of U.S. citizen children removed between 1998 and 2007. Spread out over several years, that's a relatively low number in comparison. Since then, as deportations have increased, so naturally have the deportations of parents.


An immigration sweep by the numbers

Photo by olongapowoodcraft/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Announcing a nationwide series of immigration sweeps this morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials tallied up the arrests of what ICE director John Morton termed in "3,168 fewer criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators in our neighborhoods across the country."

But as it typically goes with these operations, which have grown larger in recent months as the Obama administration carries out its mandate to arrest convicted criminals, the breakdown of the immigrants arrested is complicated. Not all are high-profile offenders; in fact, not all are convicts.

Here's ICE's local breakdown from Los Angeles, where of the 206 people apprehended, 106 had convictions for serious or violent crimes, according to the agency:

106 with Level I Convictions (Convicted of serious crimes, such as homicide, rape, drug trafficking, threats to national security and other “aggravated felonies,” or convicted of two or more felonies.)

85 with Level II Convictions (Convicted of a single felony, such as a property crime or extortion, or convicted of three or more misdemeanors.)

5 with Level III Convictions (Convicted of up to two misdemeanors, such as minor drug offenses and disorderly conduct.)

10 with no prior convictions


Civil immigrant detention: Kinder and gentler, but still a boon for private prisons

Almost three years ago, after a flurry of lawsuits alleging overcrowding, shoddy medical care and the unlawful detention of children in one former prison-turned-immigrant detention center in Texas, Homeland Security officials announced they'd be reforming the immigrant detention system.

The jury is still out on how much of those planned reforms have taken root; last fall, a report put out by an international human rights organization suggested that in spite of promises to make detention centers more liveable, "the overwhelming majority of detainees are still held in jails or jail-like facilities."

Enter what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is calling its "first-ever designed-and-built civil detention center." It's in Karnes City, Texas and is owned by Karnes County, with the county acting as middleman between ICE and The Geo Group, a private prison company. As is standard practice, counties contract with these companies to develop immigrant detention centers for the government, receiving a cut of the revenue in exchange.


Is prosecutorial discretion leading to fewer deportation cases?

Are the prosecutorial discretion guidelines issued by the Obama administration last year having an effect on the number of deportation cases that the administration is pursuing?

A new Syracuse University report suggests yes, federal immigration officials say no, and some lawmakers are calling "amnesty" nonetheless.

First, the report: Issued in recent days by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, the number of deportation proceedings begun in the nation's immigration courts between October and December of last year (the first quarter of federal fiscal year 2012) "fell sharply to only 39,331 — down 33 percent from 58,639 filings recorded the previous quarter," a drop of more than 10,000 cases filed. The report notes that since filings are typically lower at that time of year, the numbers were adjusted for seasonal drop-off. It continues: