By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
When Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided an engine remanufacturing plant in Bellingham, Wash. on Tuesday, it looked like the Bush administration policy of work-site enforcement would continue under the new White House. This, despite President Barack Obama’s campaign statement that “communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids.”
“The Obama administration decided against ‘change we can believe in’ and, instead continued the Bush legacy,” the Standing Firm pro-immigrant blog said. “I CANNOT believe the administration is allowing this to happen.”
Today, the mood is much lighter among immigration advocates, after the director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, late yesterday ordered a review of the operation, the first work-site raid to take place since she took office:
This is a great victory and the first step to winning Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Thanks to everyone who made calls and faxed into the White House to demand an end to the raids. I’ve heard so many people called in that it was difficult to even get through. FIRM and other National groups also had immigrant rights advocates on the Hill meeting with members of Congress in order to make our outrage heard. And it was!
Napolitano made her first official appearance on Capitol Hill Wednesday, where, according to The Associated Press, “she told lawmakers she did not know about the raid before if happened and was briefed on it early Wednesday morning.”
She has asked U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which arrested 28 illegal immigrants in the raid, for answers.
“I want to get to the bottom of this as well,” she said. She said work-site enforcement needs to be focused on the employers.
The New York Times talked to an unidentified high-level official at Homeland Security, who added that Napolitano “was not happy about it because it’s inconsistent with her position, and the president’s position on these matters.”
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said “these raids are not a long-term solution,” according to The Washington Times. “Secretary Napolitano is conducting a thorough review of ICE, including enforcement. The president believes we must respect due process and our best values as we enforce the law. The real answer to our broken immigration system is to fix it. The president has said that we will start the immigration reform debate this year, and this continues to be the plan.”
In any case, some immigrant advocates –who have asked for a moratorium on work-site operations until immigration reform is passed– are still protesting the raid.
In a statement released today, Chung-Wha Hong, director of The New York Immigration Coalition, said they were “saddened and angered that ICE decided to conduct this raid, but heartened that DHS Secretary Napolitano has ordered a review of that decision.
It is high time to end the Bush-era emphasis on enforcement-only policies and practices that have devastated communities, torn apart families, destroyed businesses, and created a climate of fear for immigrants in this country.
Hong reminded the new administration that candidate Obama said during the campaign: “The system isn’t working… when communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel.”
“The New York Immigration Coalition”, she added, “agrees with President Obama that the system is broken and cruel; it betrays the values that define what America is and should be. Raids are not the solution.”