A Kidnapping? No, Just ICE Agents ‘Doing Their Jobs’

A study by the Immigrant Defense Project finds that the federal agency strategically targets New York courthouses for undocumented immigrant arrests— a move it claims will have a chilling effect on immigrants’ willingness to collaborate with courts across the state.

 In a frantic 911 call from the street outside the Brooklyn, N.Y., Supreme Court, a bystander reported that she had just witnessed a kidnapping. Several men in plain clothes had just appeared, slamming a man against a wall and separating him from his attorney.

Refusing to identify themselves and claiming to be “doing their jobs,” they forced the man into an unmarked car with no plates and sped off.

In fact, what she and others had just witnessed was a commonplace operation conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforce (ICE) agents.

According to the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP), despite internal regulations to the contrary, ICE agents regularly refuse to identify themselves or provide reason for detentions.

In a recent study, the IDP reports that the federal agency strategically targets New York courthouses for arrests of undocumented immigrants, a move which it argues will have a chilling effect on immigrants’ willingness to collaborate with courts across the state.

Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, these detentions are no longer reserved for undocumented individuals facing criminal charges. Rather, ICE has declared open season on the broader undocumented community, including those who appear in court as survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence, youth covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA), and friends and family members of those appearing in court.

This is happening despite language on the ICE’s website, which outlines official policy regarding courthouse actions. According to the ICE, “courthouse arrests are often necessitated by the unwillingness of jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE in the transfer of custody of aliens from their prisons and jails.”

But its guidelines promise to avoid “indiscriminate” arrests:

Civil immigration enforcement actions taken inside courthouses can reduce safety risks to the public, targeted alien(s), and ICE officers and agents…ICE will not make civil immigration arrests inside courthouses indiscriminately.

ICE civil immigration enforcement actions inside courthouses include actions against specific, targeted aliens with criminal convictions, gang members, national security or public safety threats, aliens who have been ordered removed from the United States but have failed to depart (fugitives), and aliens who have re-entered the country illegally after being removed.

Through calls to IDP’s hotline and the reports of legal aid partner organizations such as the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, the IDP reports a 1,700 percent increase in immigrant detentions from 2016 to 2018, and a 17 percent increase from 2017 to 2018.

New York City accounted for 75 percent of total arrests across the state, with the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens reporting the highest totals.

While the bulk of ICE arrests occur in New York City, in 2018 ICE also extended operations into several previously untouched upstate counties, including Renssalaer, Fulton, and Orange.

While arrests have gained ground across the state, they have also increased in the use of physical force and aggressive surveillance tactics, according to IDP.

“Reports of ICE using violent force to conduct arrests—slamming family members against walls, dragging individuals from cars, and even pulling guns on people leaving court—have become commonplace.

“Witnesses to ICE arrests have called 911 to report that they were witnessing a kidnapping. ICE has also turned to more aggressive surveillance, trailing attorneys to their offices and eavesdropping on confidential attorney-client conversations.”

IDP argues that these emerging trends “underline ICE’s increasing reliance on the state’s court system as a place to trap and detain immigrant New Yorkers.’

The full report can be downloaded here.

Roman Gressier is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Border Officials Force Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico

Border officers were set to start pushing asylum applicants back across the border as soon as orders became operational on Friday.

U.S. border officials finalized plans Thursday to require asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their cases are considered in the United States, The Los Angeles Times reports. Border officers were set to start pushing asylum applicants back across the border as soon as orders became operational on Friday, beginning at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego, a Homeland Security official said on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. Until now, most migrants seeking asylum were released from detention into the United States while awaiting a court hearing, a process that can take years because of backlogs.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Nielsen May Have Saved Job With Tough Caravan Stance

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was on the brink of losing her job, is now expected to survive the Cabinet shake-up President Trump has spent weeks teasing, and she may have the caravan to thank.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was on the brink of losing her job, is now expected to survive the Cabinet shake-up President Trump has spent weeks teasing, and she may have the caravan to thank, Politico reports. On the verge of firing by a president who has said she isn’t a strong enough defender of the U.S.-Mexico border, Nielsen adopted — and made sure to publicize — a tough stance in response to the caravan of Central American migrants headed toward the U.S. that Trump turned into a major midterm campaign issue. She visited the southern border three times since October, and recently hailed Trump as a forceful “leader.” Her firm posture seems to have impressed her most important audience: the president.

Sources describe a clear shift in the president’s feelings toward his DHS chief, about whom he has repeatedly complained over the past year. Her fate is of particular interest because White House chief of staff John Kelly, a longtime Nielsen mentor and defender, could quickly follow her out the door in frustration. “She’s playing the part of an immigration hawk as opposed to actually being one,” said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, who’s been critical of Nielsen. There is no such thing as total job security in Trump’s administration, but in recent days Nielsen, backed by powerful allies including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, has shown off policy actions and political positioning that seem to have mollified Trump’s criticism. Nielsen sent a memo to a half-dozen federal agencies urging them to deploy all available civilian law enforcement officers to the border.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Women Charge Unreasonable Border Strip Searches

Six lawsuits say Customs and Border Protection officers subjected women who were not found with any contraband to harsh interrogations and genital probing. The government has settled another half-dozen cases for $1.2 million.

Lawsuits in New York, California, Arizona, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania charge that innocent women, including minor girls, who were not found with any contraband were subjected to harsh interrogations by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers that led to indignities that included unreasonable strip searches while menstruating to prohibited genital probing, reports the Center for Public Integrity. Some women were allegedly handcuffed and taken to hospitals where, against their will, they underwent pelvic exams, X-rays and in one case, drugging via IV. Invasive medical procedures require a detainee’s consent or a warrant. In two cases, women were billed for procedures.

Legal precedents grant federal officers at ports of entry the power, without warrants, to require people to strip for a “visual inspection” of genitals and rectums, and to submit to a “monitored bowel movement” to check for secreted drugs. At the same time,  a CBP detention-and-search handbook instructs officers to record a solid justification for every single step beyond a frisk, and to respect detainees’ dignity and “freedom from unreasonable searches” and to “consider the totality of the circumstances … when making a decision to search.” The handbook also warns officers against engaging in what could be considered either a “visual or physical intrusion” into vaginal or anal cavities. The suits underscore criticism that accountability for officer conduct is too weak — at a time when President Trump is beefing up the ranks of CBP officers and urging tougher crackdowns at the border. Settlements show that the government has opted to close some cases before trials. Six suits have resulted in settlements that cost taxpayers more than $1.2 million in payments to plaintiffs. A Canadian traveler who sued lost a jury trial in 2013. Other cases continue to wind their way through the system.

from https://thecrimereport.org

PA Reviews Rules for Trooper Interactions with ICE

A media investigation found that Pennsylvania troopers and some local officers were helping federal authorities round up immigrants for deportation, using tactics that raise questions about racial profiling and unlawful arrest.

By the end of this month, Pennsylvania State Police officers will be required to file a report any time they call immigration authorities to the scene of a traffic stop, detailing the circumstances behind the call, the agency said Wednesday. This change comes two months after ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer published an investigation about state and local police officers in Pennsylvania helping ICE round up immigrants for deportation, using tactics that raise questions about racial profiling and unlawful arrest. The story focused on Pennsylvania state Trooper Luke C. Macke as an extreme example. In 2017, Macke turned over at least 19 undocumented immigrants to ICE after interrogating them about their legal status.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called for “a need for stronger uniform procedures addressing state police requests for assistance from outside agencies, including ICE, especially given the new pressure on state and local agencies from the federal government.” Across the U.S., cities and states have wrestled with their relationship with ICE. The Pennsylvania State Police has given wide discretion to its officers in the past and did not have specific policies for handling immigration checks. A spokesman said the state police considers each traffic stop unique and places a special responsibility on its highway patrol officers to be on the alert for drug, gun, and human traffickers and to reach out as necessary to federal agencies. The department now says it plans to release an updated policy to guide troopers on their interactions with outside agencies later this summer.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Border Patrol Union: Trump’s Guard Deployment ‘a Waste’

In a dramatic departure from his support of Trump, the head of the national Border Patrol union called the ballyhooed deployment of National Guard troops on the border “a colossal waste of resources…We have seen no benefit.”

A month after President Trump called for sending National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, the head of the national Border Patrol union called the deployment “a colossal waste of resources,” reports the Los Angeles Times.”We have seen no benefit,” said Brandon Judd, president of the union that represents 15,000 agents, the National Border Patrol Council. The criticism is a dramatic departure for the group, which endorsed Trump’s candidacy for president and has praised his border security efforts, including National Guard deployments. “When I found out the National Guard was going to be on the border I was extremely excited,” Judd said, because previous deployments on the border helped alleviate the Border Patrol’s workload. He said that hasn’t happened.

About 1,600 National Guard troops were deployed on the border. About 750 more troops may soon be added in support roles, and the total could reach 4,000 “based on requests for assistance and what they need,” said Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. Davis declined to comment on the remarks by the Border Patrol union. A Border Patrol spokeswoman said National Guard troops had assisted with 3,924 deportations, 1,116 “turn backs” of migrants into Mexico and the seizure of 3,486 pounds of marijuana — all by operating support technology and equipment. She said they had replaced some Border Patrol agents at observation posts. Border Patrol Acting Chief Carla Provost responded to the union’s claims by acknowledging that the National Guard’s role has changed compared with past deployments.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Nielsen Denies Resignation Threat After Trump Rant

President Trump went into a tirade at a cabinet meeting about the failure to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was reportedly close to resigning, but she later issued a statement backing the president.

Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, was close to resigning after President Trump berated her this week in front of the entire cabinet for what he said was her failure to secure the nation’s borders, the New York Times reports. Nielsen, a protégée of White House chief of staff John Kelly, drafted a resignation letter but has not submitted it. Nielsen oversees the 20,000 employees who work for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Trump delivered a lengthy tirade about the lack of progress toward sealing the borders against illegal immigrants.

Nielsen said Trump is “rightly frustrated that existing loopholes and the lack of congressional action have prevented this administration from fully securing the border.” DHS denied that Nielsen had drafted a resignation letter. Trump has claimed credit for the fact that during his first year in office, illegal border crossings dropped to their lowest levels in decades. This year, they have risen again, robbing him of one of his favorite talking points. Trump’s blowup at the meeting  was prompted by a discussion about why Mexico was not doing more to prevent illegal border crossings into the U.S. Nielsen viewed the president’s rant as directed mostly at her, and she told associates after the meeting that she should not continue in the job if he did not view her as effective. One person close to Nielsen said she was miserable in her job.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Has Paid $60M In Suits Against Border Agents

The U.S. government has paid out more than $60 million in legal settlements where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention, finds an analysis by The Guardian of more than a decade of official data.

The U.S. government has paid out more than $60 million in legal settlements where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention, an analysis of more than a decade of official data reveals, The Guardian reports. Since taking office, President Trump has been pushing to expand the patrol force at the southern border, insisting recently on Twitter, “Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws.” While Trump has ordered National Guard troops to be deployed to provide agents with extra support, the review of settlement data and details found in related court records raises concerns about the agency’s history of interactions with civilians, both native-born and immigrant.

The federal government has settled at least 20 wrongful death claims, paying more than $9 million to the families of people killed since 2003, in incidents including shooting, beating, use of Tasers and collisions with vehicles. Nearly $47 million has been paid out for damages resulting from alleged reckless driving by border agents. Of more than 1,300 such payments, a review of 40 cases with available court records found six crashes which were deadly and 18 that cited grave injuries including amputations and disability. Four people, including two U.S. citizens and a legal permanent resident, received settlements for being wrongly deported. Nine people, including three citizens, two immigrants with legal status and two tourists, received settlements for illegal detentions of between four days and two months. More than $650,000 was paid out in settlements in four cases where four people were shot by border agents and survived.

from https://thecrimereport.org

US Extends Global Reach of Vast Homeland Security Force

About 2,000 Homeland Security employees are now deployed to more than 70 countries around the world. Hundreds more are either at sea for weeks at a time aboard Coast Guard ships or patrolling the skies in surveillance planes. The expansion has created tensions with some European countries.

The Department of Homeland Security is increasingly going global, says the New York Times. An estimated 2,000 Homeland Security employees — from Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents to Transportation Security Administration officials — now are deployed to more than 70 countries around the world. Hundreds more are either at sea for weeks at a time aboard Coast Guard ships, or patrolling the skies in surveillance planes above the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The expansion has created tensions with some European countries who say that the United States is trying to export its immigration laws to their territory. But other allies agree with the US argument that its longer reach strengthens international security while preventing a terrorist attack, drug shipment, or human smuggling ring from reaching American soil.

“Many threats to the homeland begin overseas, and that’s where we need to be,” said James Nealon, the department’s assistant secretary for international engagement. The costs of the operations abroad have raised questions. One congressional report found that the cost of stationing an ICE agent overseas is about four times as expensive as a domestic post. And in September testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee, the National Treasury Employees Union raised concerns about plans to deploy additional customs officers abroad amid “critical staffing shortages at the nation’s ports of entry.” Lawmakers have asked Homeland Security officials to evaluate the costs and benefits of deploying thousands of employees overseas while the department is looking to hire 15,000 new ICE and border patrol agents in the U.S. as part of President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Border Agent’s Death Made Headlines, But What Killed Him?

President Trump and other politicians used the Nov. 18 death of border patrol agent Rogelio Martinez as political fodder. But six weeks later, there are more questions than answers about how Martinez died.

President Trump called it proof of the need to build a wall; Senator Ted Cruz said it was a “stark reminder” of insecurity along the border. To everyone, it seemed like a horrendous example of the dangers that border patrol officers face as they cover vast, remote and unforgiving territories. But a month after a middle-of-the-night incident in which one border patrol agent was killed and another, who is said to have no memory of what happened, was severely injured, no one seems to know how the men came into harm’s way off an interstate in West Texas, says the New York Times.

The Nov. 18 incident was initially thought to be an attack, perhaps by migrants or drug smugglers. But the FBI says it also was possible the men were hurt accidentally. Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo, who is helping with the investigation, seemed to favor that theory when he told the Dallas Morning News that the men could have been hit by a truck driving along the interstate next to where they were found. That hypothesis has angered the border agents’ union, whose leadership insists the men were attacked. A union spokesman called Carrillo a “dingbat” on his weekly podcast. The immediate, politicized reactions from President Trump, Senator Cruz and other elected officials have died down, as weeks have passed without any more clarity as to what happened.

from https://thecrimereport.org