A project of the Center for Community Change

DHS Signals Policy Changes Ahead for Immigration Raids

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Today the Washington Post published an article about an impending policy shift in the way the Department of Homeland Security does business. Immigration raids, which were the Bush administration’s pride and joy, are being restructured under Obama and new DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The raids, which target workers and destroy communities, are now shifting focus.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.

A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute — increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.

“There will be a change in policy, but in the interim, you’ve got to scrutinize the cases coming up,” the senior DHS official said, noting Napolitano’s expectations as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.

These delays are a good sign that immigration enforcement policy will be changing. In recent weeks there have been many prominent leaders (both political and faith) calling for a change in immigration policy and an end to the destructive raids.

While a policy is still under development, Napolitano has said she intends to focus more on prosecuting criminal cases of wrongdoing by companies. Analysts say they also think ICE may conduct fewer raids, focusing routine enforcement on civil infractions of worker eligibility verification rules.

This is good news since it signals an end to scapegoating the most vulnerable while letting the powerful off the hook. However, just a shift in enforcement policy will not be enough to right the course. This must come along with comprehensive reform in order to truly begin to fix the broken system.

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