Posted on Wed, Nov. 14, 2007
ICE tears families apart
The impact of our government's crackdown on immigrants was captured by the media on Oct. 30 when Juan and Alex Gomez's parents had to leave their sons and report to immigration agents for deportation to Colombia. A family was torn apart after living in the country they called home for 17 years.
Generally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations occur behind closed doors, removed from public scrutiny. But families like the Gomezes are being dismantled overnight in record numbers.
Our war on terror has transgressed into a war on immigrant families who have lived here for years, worked hard, paid taxes and broken no criminal laws. Immigration detainees are the fastest growing prison population in the country, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion a year.
While reasonable people can disagree about how best to fix our broken immigration system, we're certainly no safer because families like the Gomezes have been deported. We're less safe because we're wasting precious resources targeting the wrong people. Just ask DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who in May said that Border Patrol and immigration agents were busy chasing maids and landscapers instead of focusing on drug dealers and terrorists.
Even former CIA chief of counter-terrorism, Vincent Cannistrano, has lamented that our government is targeting immigrants with no ties to terrorism rather than examining why anti-terrorism immigration laws passed in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing failed.
Deportations also devastate our economy. Undocumented workers contribute more than their fair share to our economy, adding between $6.5 and $7 billion to Social Security every year. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, by 2010 America will have 168 million jobs and only 158 million persons to fill them.
The debate over immigration policies has polarized our nation. One can only hope that in the interest of meeting our country's security and economic needs, Congress will find a way to put politics aside and permit those in the United States without proper documents to embark on a path to legal status.
CHERYL LITTLE, executive director, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Miami