Families protest against immigration raids and checkpoints in Asheville, North Carolina. (Aura Bogado)
A damning new post at USA Today reveals that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) administrators created a plan to boost deportations of undocumented immigrants convicted of minor crimes, like driving without a license.
The Obama administration—which has deported a record 1.5 million people in its first term—has enthusiastically promoted the deportation of criminals. It has also issued a memo advising immigration personnel to use prosecutorial discretion for low-priority cases. Still, many immigrants facing deportation point out that they were picked up after being racially profiled while driving.
Today’s report originates from an ACLU of North Carolina Freedom of Information Act request surrounding traffic checkpoints. The request yielded a cache of e-mails and documents that disclose that immigration agents were instructed to delve into Department of Motor Vehicle records to target immigrants for deportation.
A letter dated April 18, 2012, from ICE’s Enforcement and Removal illustrates the goal of what it calls its North Carolina DMV Project:
Previously, documents considered acceptable for proof of residency in North Carolina were easily forged, or the information provided by applicants was not verified. However, in 2006, state lawmakers required a valid social security number or visa. The DMV stopped accepting Mexican ID cards in 2004. Therefore, cooperating with DMV to identify all denied license renewal applications (due to lacking proof of residency) would provide a significant foreign-born target base which could be vetted further to identify those with prior criminal convictions.
The emails and documents also illustrate that ICE would work with local police departments to target immigrants for deportation, but obscure its presence. “ICE would not be at the checkpoint itself so this would not appear to be an ICE organized checkpoint,” reads one section about assisted checkpoints, adding that ICE would not limit its questioning to the driver, but also interview vehicle passengers who might also be detained.
The documents confirm what undocumented immigrants have known for too long. In August of last year, Undocubus riders in North Carolina on their way to the DNC protested inside Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe’s office, accusing Ashe of staging checkpoints that racially profiled Latino drivers and passengers—and resulted in deportations that tore families apart.
Read Aura Bogado’s take on what Obama said—and didn’t say—about immigration in his State of the Union address.