RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The officers suit up in the pre-dawn darkness, wrapping on body armor, snapping in guns, pulling on black sweat shirts that read POLICE and ICE.
They gather around a conference table in an ordinary office in a nondescript office park in the suburbs, going over their targets for the day: two men, both with criminal histories. Top of the list is a man from El Salvador convicted of drunken driving.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election — prioritizing criminals.
But they have also stepped up arrests of people who have no U.S. criminal records. It is those stories of ICE officers arresting dads and grandmothers that pepper local news. Officers are heckled and videotaped. Some Democratic politicians have called for ICE to be abolished.
ICE employees have been threatened at their homes, their personal data exposed online, officials said.
“There is a tension around ‘It could be that somebody could find out what I do and hate me for it or do worse than hate me for it,’” Ronald Vitiello, acting head of the agency, told The Associated Press.
Vitiello said the agency is monitoring social media and giving employees resources for when they feel threatened.
ICE, formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, had been told under the Obama administration to focus on removing immigrants who had committed crimes. Trump, in one of his first moves in office, directed his administration to target anyone in the country illegally.
Government data back up that ICE is still mostly targeting people convicted of a crime. But the data also show the agency has greatly ramped up arrests of people who were accused of a crime but not convicted, and increased arrests solely on immigration violations.
ICE arrested 32,977 people accused of crimes and 20,464 with immigration violations during the budget year 2018. There were 105,140 arrests of someone with a criminal conviction and 158,581 arrests overall. The most frequent criminal conviction was for drunken driving, followed by drug and traffic offenses.
The U.S. has reached a deal with the Mexican government to force asylum seekers at its southern border to remain in Mexico while they wait to bring their case before an American immigration judge, a process that could take several months or even years, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced at a congressional hearing on Thursday.
The new policy, effective immediately, is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to curb what it insists are loopholes in the immigration system. Like many of its immigration policies, the plan was likely to face pushback in court.
Nielsen’s announcement before a House Judiciary Committee came as President Donald Trump remained locked in a bitter dispute with lawmakers over whether to shut down the government if he doesn’t get the money he wants to buy a border wall.
“We have a huge problem with asylum fraud,” Nielsen told the House panel. “We need to work together to combat that.”
Nielsen’s testimony encountered immediate pushback from congressional Democrats who called the plan a misguided attempt to demonize immigrants.
“Is it as (though) you can’t see the realities of modern immigration or the contributions of anyone who came from countries other than Norway or other parts of Europe,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Illinois. “It’s as though you and others in the administration are blind.”
At issue is how the United States decides who should be granted asylum, a right granted to migrants by U.S. and international law. According to the Homeland Security Department, border officials have seen a surge in migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and that the vast majority are granted entrance into the United States after passing a “credible fear” interview.
DHS said in a statement Thursday that in nearly half of these cases in 2018, the person later failed to appear at a hearing or file an asylum claim, indicating that the person likely opted to remain illegally inside the U.S. As a result, DHS says, only 9 percent of people from those three countries are ultimately granted asylum.
John Cohen, a former acting under secretary at the Homeland Security Department and an ABC News contributor, noted that the law does allow for the federal government, through the attorney general, to deport someone to a “safe third country” pending an asylum claim, if there is bilateral agreement.
But, the law requires that the person’s “life or freedom” not be threatened, and that the person claiming asylum still have “full and fair” access to the U.S. immigration system. That means it’s likely the U.S. will have to devote resources to either bring people into the United States to see an immigration judge, or set up U.S. courts in Mexico — a highly unusual situation that presents legal complications, Cohen said.
“It’s highly probable this will be challenged in court,” Cohen said. “It’ll be up to the courts to determine whether processing someone in Mexico is consistent with the law or not.”
Administration officials said they expect a dramatic drop in asylum claims if people are not allowed to enter the U.S. and are instead forced to wait in Mexico. Several Republicans on the House committee said they supported the move.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the plan “historic” and said that the Mexican government has promised to give the migrants humanitarian visas to stay on Mexican soil, as well as the ability to apply for work.
“We think that they (migrants seeking asylum) will now see that they can’t disappear inside the United States, and so they will remain in their home countries,” Pompeo told Fox News host Laura Ingraham.
Mexico has previously refused to accept the return of migrants who aren’t Mexican citizens. But earlier this week, the U.S. signed a joint declaration with Mexico promising to invest $5.8 billion in southern Mexico and the three countries where most of the migrants were coming from — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The administration also promised a U.S.-Mexico business summit next year and a cabinet-level meeting in January.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department called the latest agreement to allow U.S. asylum seekers to remain in Mexico was a temporary, humanitarian measure)
Trump has been under political pressure from his supporters to take a hard line with immigration. While illegal crossings fell during his first year in office, they have returned to previous levels.
The president’s other executive actions aimed at curbing those crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border have faced setbacks in court. On Wednesday, a federal judge blocked a separate policy that restricts asylum claims of migrants fleeing domestic and gang-related violence. Another federal judge in California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against a Trump administration rule that made anyone who crosses the southern border outside a port of entry ineligible for asylum.
Trump has expressed frustration in recent days that he hasn’t been able to fulfill his promise to build a border wall.
“When I begrudgingly signed the Omnibus Bill, I was promised the Wall and Border Security by leadership,” Trump tweeted. “Would be done by end of year (NOW). It didn’t happen! We foolishly fight for Border Security for other countries – but not for our beloved U.S.A. Not good!”
ABC News reporters Conor Finnegan and Luke Barr contributed to this report.Sponsored Stories
The ICE is increasingly like the Gestapo. Paige St. John and Joel Rubin report in the LA Times: Immigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad […]
Immigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans.
But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations, according to a Times review of federal lawsuits, internal ICE documents and interviews.
Since 2012, ICE has released from its custody more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship claims, according to agency figures. And a Times review of Department of Justice records and interviews with immigration attorneys uncovered hundreds of additional cases in the country’s immigration courts in which people were forced to prove they are Americans and sometimes spent months or even years in detention.
Victims include a landscaper snatched in a Home Depot parking lot in Rialto and held for days despite his son’s attempts to show agents the man’s U.S. passport; a New York resident locked up for more than three years fighting deportation efforts after a federal agent mistook his father for someone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen; and a Rhode Island housekeeper mistakenly targeted twice, resulting in her spending a night in prison the second time even though her husband had brought her U.S. passport to a court hearing.
They and others described the panic and feeling of powerlessness that set in as agents took them into custody without explanation and ignored their claims of citizenship.
The wrongful arrests account for a small fraction of the more than 100,000 arrests ICE makes each year, and it’s unclear whether the Trump administration’s aggressive push to increase deportations will lead to more mistakes. But the detentions of U.S. citizens amount to an unsettling type of collateral damage in the government’s effort to remove illegal or unwanted immigrants.
The errors reveal flaws in the way ICE identifies people for deportation, including its reliance on databases that are incomplete and plagued by mistakes. The wrongful arrests also highlight a presumption that pervades U.S. immigration agencies and courts that those born outside the United States are not here legally unless electronic records show otherwise. And when mistakes are not quickly remedied, citizens are forced into an immigration court system where they must fight to prove they should not be removed from the country, often without the help of an attorney.
The Times found that the two groups most vulnerable to becoming mistaken ICE targets are the children of immigrants and citizens born outside the country.
Matthew Albence, the head of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, declined to be interviewed but said in a written statement that investigating citizen claims can be a complex task involving searches of electronic and paper records as well as personal interviews. He said ICE updates records when errors are found and agents arrest only those they have probable cause to suspect are eligible for deportation.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement takes very seriously any and all assertions that an individual detained in its custody may be a U.S. citizen,” he said.
But The Times’ review of federal documents and lawsuits turned up cases in which Americans were arrested based on mistakes or cursory ICE investigations and some who were repeatedly targeted because the government failed to update its records. Immigration lawyers said federal agents rarely conduct interviews before making arrests and getting ICE to correct its records is difficult.
A big mistake
Sergio Carrillo had already been handcuffed in the Home Depot parking lot in Rialto on a July morning in 2016 when an officer in Homeland Security uniform appeared.
“Homeland Security?” Carrillo asked. “What do you want with me?”
Ignoring Carrillo’s demands for an explanation, the officer ordered the 39-year-old landscaper taken to a federal detention facility in downtown Los Angeles.
“You’re making a big mistake,” Carrillo recalled saying from the back seat to the officers driving him. “I am a U.S. citizen.” . . .
The director general of immigration enforcement also acknowledged that there is a ‘deep problem’ with wrongful immigration detentions. (Picture: Barcroft)A ‘handful’ of people have been wrongly removed from Britain in the last… Read the full story
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, whose hallowed place in the pantheon of South Africa’s liberators was eroded by scandal over corruption, kidnapping, murder and the implosion of her fabled marriage to Nelson Mandela, died early Monday in Johannesburg. She was 81.
Her death, at the Netcare Milpark Hospital, was announced by her spokesman, Victor Dlamini. He said in a statement that she died “after a long illness, for which she had been in and out of hospital since the start of the year.”
The South African Broadcasting Corporation said she was admitted to the hospital over the weekend complaining of the flu after she attended a church service on Friday. She had been treated for diabetes and underwent major surgeries as her health began failing over the last several years.
Charming, intelligent, complex, fiery and eloquent, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela (Madikizela was her surname at birth) was inevitably known to most of the world through her marriage to the revered Mr. Mandela. It was a bond that endured ambiguously: She derived a vaunted status from their shared struggle, yet she chafed at being defined by him.
One day in 1957, when she was waiting at a bus stop, Nelson Mandela drove past. “I was struck by her beauty,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.” Some weeks later, he recalled, “I was at the office when I popped in to see Oliver and there was this same young woman.”
Mr. Mandela, approaching 40 and the father of three, declared on their first date that he would marry her. Soon he separated from his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, a nurse, to marry Ms. Madikizela-Mandela on June 14, 1958.
Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was thrust into the limelight in 1964 when her husband was sentenced to life in prison on charges of treason. She was officially “banned” under draconian restrictions intended to make her a nonperson, unable to work, socialize, move freely or be quoted in the South African news media, even as she raised their two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa.
In a crackdown in May 1969, five years after her husband was sent to prison, she was arrested and held for 17 months, 13 in solitary confinement. She was beaten and tortured. The experience, she wrote, was “what changed me, what brutalized me so much that I knew what it is to hate.”
After blacks rioted in the segregated Johannesburg township of Soweto in 1976, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela was again imprisoned without trial, this time for five months. She was then banished to a bleak township outside the profoundly conservative white town of Brandfort, in the Orange Free State.
“I am a living symbol of whatever is happening in the country,” she wrote in “Part of My Soul Went With Him,” a memoir published in 1984 and printed around the world. “I am a living symbol of the white man’s fear. I never realized how deeply embedded this fear is until I came to Brandfort.”
Contrary to the authorities’ intentions, her cramped home became a place of pilgrimage for diplomats and prominent sympathizers, as well as foreign journalists seeking interviews.
Ms. Madikizela-Mandela cherished conversation with outsiders and word of the world beyond her confines. She scorned many of her restrictions, using whites-only public phones and ignoring the segregated counters at the local liquor store when she ordered Champagne — gestures that stunned the area’s whites.
Banishment Took Toll
Still, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s exclusion from what passed as a normal life in South Africa took a toll, and she began to drink heavily. During her banishment, moreover, her land changed. Beginning in late 1984, young protesters challenged the authorities with increasing audacity. The unrest spread, prompting the white rulers to acknowledge what they called a “revolutionary climate” and declare a state of emergency.
When Ms. Madikizela-Mandela returned to her home in Soweto in 1985, breaking her banning orders, it was as a far more bellicose figure, determined to assume leadership of what became the decisive and most violent phase of the struggle. As she saw it, her role was to stiffen the confrontation with the authorities.
The tactics were harsh.
“Together, hand in hand, with our boxes of matches and our necklaces, we will liberate this country,” she told a rally in April 1986. She was referring to “necklacing,” a form of sometimes arbitrary execution by fire using a gas-soaked tire around a supposed traitor’s neck, and it shocked an older generation of anti-apartheid campaigners. But her severity aligned her with the young township radicals who enforced commitment to the struggle.
In the late 1980s, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela allowed the outbuildings around her residence in Soweto to be used by the so-called Mandela United Football Club, a vigilante gang that claimed to be her bodyguard. It terrorized Soweto, inviting infamy and prosecution.
In 1991 she was convicted of ordering the 1988 kidnapping of four youths in Soweto. The body of one, a 14-year-old named James Moeketsi Seipei — nicknamed Stompie, a slang word for a cigarette butt, reflecting his diminutive stature — was found with his throat cut.
Ms. Madikizela-Mandela’s chief bodyguard was convicted of murder. She was sentenced to six years for kidnapping, but South Africa’s highest appeals court reduced her punishment to fines and a suspended one-year term.
By then her life had begun to unravel. The United Democratic Front, an umbrella group of organizations fighting apartheid and linked to the A.N.C., expelled her. In April 1992, Mr. Mandela, midway through settlement talks with President F. W. de Klerk of South Africa, announced that he and his wife were separating. (She dismissed suggestions that she had wanted to be known by the title “first lady.” “I am not the sort of person to carry beautiful flowers and be an ornament to everyone,” she said.)
Two years later, Mr. Mandela was elected president and offered her a minor job as the deputy minister of arts, culture, science and technology. But after allegations of influence peddling, bribetaking and misuse of government funds, she was forced from office. In 1996, Mr. Mandela ended their 38-year marriage, testifying in court that his wife was having an affair with a colleague.
Only in 1997, at the behest of Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu at South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, did Ms. Madikizela-Mandela offer an apology for the events of the late 1980s. “Things went horribly wrong,” she said, adding, “For that I am deeply sorry.”
The US government is proposing to collect social media identities from nearly everyone who seeks US Visa, according to a State Department filing on Friday.
The proposal, a broad expansion of the information gathered from applicants for U.S. visas, if approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), would require most immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants to list all social media identities they have used in the past five years.
The information will be used to vet and identify them, according to the proposals, which would affect about 14.7 million people annually.
The proposals support President Donald Trump’s promise to institute “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the United states to prevent terrorism.
Previously, under rules instituted last May, consular officials were instructed to collect social media identifiers only when they determined “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” a State Department official said at the time.
The State Department said then that the tighter vetting would apply only to those “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities.”
The American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern, saying the move would have a “chilling” effect on freedom of speech and association.
“People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” Hina Shamsi, director ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.
“We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” he said.
“There is a real risk that social media vetting will unfairly target immigrants and travelers from Muslim-majority countries for discriminatory visa denials, without doing anything to protect national security.”
The new proposal was published in the Federal Register on Friday. The public has 60 days to comment on the revised procedures before the OMB approves or rejects them.
If approved, the measures also will require applicants to submit five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses and their international travel history. They will be asked if they have been deported or removed from any country and whether family members have been involved in terrorist activities, the department said.
The department said it intends not to routinely ask most diplomatic and official visa applicants for the additional information.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton