From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
INS raids threaten basic freedoms of all, new study contends
16 Oct 1998 13:34:26
Oct. 16, 1998 Contact: Joretta Purdue*(202)546-8722*Washington
WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Enforcement of laws, yes; raids that terrorize
people and rob them of their civil rights, no.
That is the message of several organizations calling for an end to raids
by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). More than 250
groups have joined in observing a National Week of Action Against
Immigration Raids, Oct. 11-18. Those groups include the United Methodist
Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Committee on
Relief, a unit of the denomination's Board of Global Ministries.
At an Oct. 14 press conference in a congressional office building, the
groups introduced a report on INS raids that is being sent to members of
The speakers included a U.S. citizen who was harassed, a woman whose
business was destroyed, a labor advocate and the head of the United
Methodist Board of Church and Society.
The Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the board,
expressed outrage at "the excessive force and aggressive tactics" used
by the INS and local police in immigration raids.
These raids "have left a trail of harassment, physical abuse and racial
discrimination throughout the United States," he said. "Race, not
immigration status, seems to be the common factor in these abusive
Fassett urged that legal action be taken against employers who exploit
undocumented workers. He called for:
* the elimination of all abuses of civil and human rights by the
* congressional hearings on the impact of the raids;
* an effective mechanism for handling victim complaints about
* implementation of international human rights conventions and
other measures protecting basic rights.
Cathi Tactaquin, director of the National Network for Immigrant and
Refugee Rights, an alliance of more than 70 organizations, announced the
release of the report that found "immigration raids threaten the rights
of citizens and non-citizens." The report, "Portrait of Injustice," by a
network task force, looked at 235 raids in 31 states and the District of
"Immigration enforcement operations conducted by armed agents at
workplaces, private residences, community institutions and in sweeps
through public areas . . . not only have a considerable impact on
immigrants, but show dangerous disregard for the well-being and safety
of all communities and residents," the task force stated in the
executive summary, which was delivered to all members of Congress later
in the day.
INS Commissioner Doris Meissner said she welcomed the network's report.
The INS "is committed to enforcing the nation's immigration laws in ways
that uphold the civil rights of all people," she said in a written
statement Oct. 14. "As part of our efforts, we welcome the
recommendations of, and seek and open dialogue with, community-based
organizations and coalitions such as the National Network of Immigrant
and Refugee Rights.
She outlined several steps the agency has taken recently "to ensure the
highest professional standards" while enforcing the law. Those steps
include the organization of a new Citizens Advisory Panel to focus on
interior enforcement issues, she said. "Participants will include
members of community and advocacy groups, local law enforcement
representatives, INS staff and others."
At the press conference, Michele Youngquist, co-owner of a small family
farm in the state of Washington, described 1994 and 1997 raids on the
farm at the height of its pumpkin season.
"We were completely surrounded by an army of federal agents in 15 to 20
cars, vans and buses pulling in at very high speeds, as well as aircraft
circling overhead" like a scene in a Mel Gibson "Lethal Weapon" film,
Youngquist said. "There was a great risk of someone being seriously
injured or possibly even killed."
The farm runs a pumpkin patch where pre-school and kindergarten children
were present for a field trip to pick pumpkins, she said. The agents
corralled her panic-stricken workers like cattle, using excessive force
on some and inappropriately handling others, she said. Many of the
workers had children in day care and school and were worried about them,
"I was extremely angry, devastated and very afraid," Youngquist said.
"These agents destroyed my business and the lives of my employees. They
cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income."
Such raids do not stop immigration, she said. Although she had collected
all the required proofs of citizenship, some of her workers were
deported, she said. The rest were afraid to return or were involved in
caring for the children of those who were detained. As a result the
entire crop was lost.
Catalina Veloz, who was born and works in Arizona, shook as she recalled
being pulled over by a local police officer and an INS agent while
driving. They did not ask to see her license or insurance card - they
wanted immigration papers. Although she kept telling them that she was
born in a Phoenix hospital, she was pulled from the car and handcuffed.
Only when she switched the conversation to English from the Spanish the
officers had been speaking did they turn her loose.
"I was treated like the stuff you scrape off the bottom of your shoes
because of my skin color," the outraged wife and mother of four
Later the same day, she had her son in the car when the situation was
repeated. This time, however, she had her birth certificate and social
security card as well as her driver's license with her. Her son was
terribly frightened and is still upset by the episode more than a year
later, Veloz said. How is she supposed to teach her children not to hate
people because of the way they look when the children see that happen to
their mother? she asked.
"I was born here! I went to school here! I am raising four kids here! Do
I have to tattoo the words 'U.S. Citizen' on my forehead?" she said.
Ann Hoffman, legislative director of UNITE, the Union of Needletrades,
Industrial and Textile Employees, asserted that "unscrupulous employers
do not hesitate to use INS raids against workers involved in a union
organizing drive or seeking to negotiate a union contract."
She recalled a raid at one company just after the union had received the
support of more than half the employees. The managers invited the INS
in, gave agents a list of organizers and union supporters to arrest, and
warned the pro-management workers to take the day off so they would not
INS raids affect everyone in the community, not just immigrants, said
Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza (which
means "the Hispanic people of the world").
"Raids do not advance this nation's goals. They do sacrifice freedoms,"
she said. Anyone who believes in equality, equal treatment and respect
for human rights objects to these raids, she said.
Raids are the agency's primary means of enforcing U.S. immigration laws,
said INS spokeswoman Barbara Francis. Unscrupulous employers often do
take advantage of unauthorized workers, and the INS tries to go after
those employers in particular, she said. People who knowingly hire such
workers are subject to fines, jail time, or both, she said.
The findings in the "Portrait of Injustice" report on the raids were
verified by local residents, victims and newspapers. The conclusions led
the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to ask Congress
and the Department of Justice for several reforms, including:
* stopping the raids;
* ending the practice of combining raids with other law
* holding congressional hearings on the impact of the raids;
* focusing resources on the implementation and monitoring of labor
law and worker protections;
* mandating that the INS keep detailed statistics on its raids;
* establishing a system for reporting victim complaints about
abuse of authority in enforcement.
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