Latino groups are condemning ICE’s Saturday raid targeting an Arizona car wash chain for hiring undocumented immigrants, likening the operation to raids conducted by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
A 78-count indictment unsealed Monday morning charges 14 of the company’s managers and supervisors with knowlingly hiring undocumented workers, identity theft, immigration document fraud and false statements. ICE officials say they took aim at the Danny’s Family Car Wash management for criminal acts, rather than the company’s undocumented workers.
But many immigrant rights groups don’t think the distinction makes the federal operation much different from Arpaio’s.
“In Arizona, it’s hard to tell the difference between Arpaio and Obama,” Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the immigrant advocacy group Puente, said in a statement. “By targeting an employer for rehiring undocumented workers, the gap between state and federal policy and practice has only narrowed. Work continues to be criminalized, and children will go to sleep without their parents tonight.”
Sal Reza, an immigrant rights activist, echoed the sentiment in a comment to the Phoenix New Times, saying: “The Obama administration going after employers is just another facet of the same thing that is happening with Arpaio. The ones that are ultimately affected are the workers, because they’re left without a job.”
It wasn’t just activists who noted the parallel -- reporter Fernanda Santos of The New York Times raised the Arpaio comparison in a description of the raid.
The scene on Saturday resembled the workplace raids by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County and operations by federal authorities here and elsewhere: heavily armed agents in bulletproof vests and ski masks surrounded the businesses, and then escorted workers outside single file with hands bound behind their backs.
Immigration officials discovered that Danny’s Family Car Wash was employing undocumented workers after an audit completed in 2011. The company fired the workers at the request of government officials, but then rehired them, sometimes after helping them acquire false identification documents so they could pass E-Verify checks, according to the indictment.
ICE agents detained some 223 people, most of them undocumented, according to The New York Times. Authorities released 179 of them after questioning, placed 30 of them into deportation proceedings, and arrested 14 on criminal charges, according to the Phoenix New Times.
The 30 immigrants facing deportation had criminal histories, ICE says. Current deportation guidelines direct Homeland Security to focus its efforts on unauthorized immigrants with criminal records.
The car wash crackdown is part of an effort over recent years to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers by filing criminal charges against them and hitting them with fines, according to the Arizona Republic.
A federal judge found Joe Apraio guilty of discriminating against Latinos during his immigration crackdowns in May.
The U.S.-Mexico border is violent
It certainly is in some places, but those don't tend to be on the U.S. side. In fact, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/08/2-us-mexico-border-cities_n_2647897.html">El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California are the two safest cities in the country</a>, according to Congressional Quarterly. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/jan-brewer-border-enforcement_n_2677777.html">While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has repeatedly said the border in her state is dangerous</a>, crime statistics reported by USA Today and The Huffington Post show that violent crime has dropped along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, as well as California, New Mexico and Texas.
The porous U.S.-Mexico border is vulnerable to terrorists
That’s not the assessment of the U.S. government. The Mexico section of the most recent <a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/195768.pdf">State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism reads</a>: <blockquote>No known international terrorist organization had an operational presence in Mexico and no terrorist group targeted U.S. citizens in or from Mexican territory. There was no evidence of ties between Mexican criminal organizations and terrorist groups, nor that the criminal organizations had political or territorial control, aside from seeking to protect and expand the impunity with which they conduct their criminal activity.</blockquote> H/T: <a href="http://borderfactcheck.com/">Washington Office on Latin America</a>.
The border is insecure
Depends on how you define "secure." By practically all measurements, the border is at its most secure point in recent history. There's more than <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/may/10/barack-obama/obama-says-border-patrol-has-doubled-number-agents/">20,000 Border Patrol agents stationed along the border now</a> -- about double the number since 2004. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/border-funding-needed-immigration-apprehensions/story?id=18465102">Apprehensions along the border, one of the most reliable measures of illegal entry</a>, are at their lowest level in 40 years. But <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/23/what-does-a-secure-border_n_2749419.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World">politicians have yet to agree on how to define what "secure" will mean</a> for legal purposes.
Obama has been soft on enforcement
Not so. In fact, it's one of the biggest gripes immigration activists have with him. While Obama has exempted many people who came to the United States as children from deportation, he has also set records, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/advocates-push-obama-to-halt-aggressive-deportation-efforts.html?_r=0">deporting over 400,000 people last fiscal year and removing more migrants</a> in one term than George W. Bush did in two.
The U.S. hasn't committed enough resources to securing the border
Again, depends on who you ask. The $18 billion the federal government spent on border enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year was more than it spent on than on other law enforcement agencies combined, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/immigration-enforcement-cost_n_2425647.html">according to the Migration Policy Institute</a> -- about 15 times more than it did in the mid-1980s. Is that enough, especially in a context in which illegal immigration stands at net zero? If, not, what is?
Illegal immigration continues to skyrocket
Nope. For all the talk from outraged politicians, you'd think that immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border remains at historically high levels. In fact, <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/04/23/net-migration-from-mexico-falls-to-zero-and-perhaps-less/">illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped to net zero or less</a>, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.