Napolitano's Increased Immigration Enforcement Plans Raise Civil Liberties Concerns

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
August 12, 2009 12:00 am

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ACLU of New Mexico
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NEW YORK – Raising serious civil liberties concerns, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a speech in El Paso, Texas on Tuesday that DHS plans to augment border security resources and expand the 287(g) program, under which state and local law enforcement agencies gain federal immigration enforcement authority. The plans also include expanding the use of E-Verify, discounting serious problems with the flawed database that some employers use to check on employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.

The following can be attributed to Emily Carey, program coordinator of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights:

“While Secretary Napolitano recognized that southwest border security cannot be managed as a discrete entity, border enforcement continues to increase in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform. Increases in resources for enforcement have not been matched by a proportional increase in resources for appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms. Without such mechanisms, the potential for further erosion of civil liberties for border communities increases.”

The following can be attributed to ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project staff attorney Omar Jadwat:

“Secretary Napolitano’s plans to increase the use of the 287(g) program and to encourage employers to use the flawed E-Verify database will not stem the flow of undocumented immigration, but they will endanger Americans’ fundamental liberties.

“Although Secretary Napolitano acknowledges that the 287(g) program lacked accountability and did not appropriately prioritize enforcement under the Bush administration, she fails to recognize that the new standardized 287(g) agreement DHS has recently announced has no mechanisms to address those flaws. What the program did in the past and will continue to do is endanger public safety and encourage civil rights abuses. The program’s fundamental problem – then and now – is that it puts local police in the business of federal immigration enforcement, making it more difficult for police to do their jobs, increasing the likelihood of racial profiling and putting everyone’s safety at risk.

“Napolitano’s support for E-Verify, an intrusive verification system that relies on massive and inaccurate databases, is also unwise. E-Verify already undermines the privacy of American workers, leads to discrimination against those who look or sound ‘foreign’ and imposes new burdens on authorized workers, including U.S. citizens. If every employer used E-Verify, hundreds of thousands of authorized workers would initially be rejected by the database and would have to try to convince federal government bureaucrats to take them off the ‘no work list.’

“Americans must not trade in our freedoms for quick ‘fixes’ that ultimately do nothing to improve our broken immigration system. E-Verify and the 287(g) program merely saddle taxpayers and businesses with enormous costs in a time of economic crisis.”

Secretary Napolitano’s speech can be found online at: www.dhs.gov/ynews/speeches/sp_1250028863008.shtm

The new standardized 287(g) memorandum of agreement (MOA), Maricopa County’s MOA and the ACLU side-by-side comparison of the two can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/local/40350lgl20090716.html

The ACLU’s submitted testimony on the 287(g) program can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/gen/39062leg20090304.html

The ACLU’s position on E-Verify can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants/workplace/35739res20080620.html

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