Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Thu Oct 4 15:14:54 MDT 2007

Published: October 4, 2007

Armed squads bursting into homes in the dead of night with shotguns and
automatic weapons, terrorizing families and taking away anyone who lacks
identity papers, even if they have raided the wrong house. It may sound
like Baghdad, but it is the suburbs of New York City, the latest among
hundreds of communities around the country where federal agents have been
invading homes and workplaces in search of immigrants to deport.

Federal officials say the raids are a focused campaign to catch gang
members and other fugitives. That would be good if Immigration and Customs
Enforcement were carefully extracting the dangerous criminal sliver from a
population of 12 million illegal immigrants. But as immigration raids have
vastly increased, they have become something murky and ugly.

ICE is catching modest numbers of undesirables, but also a much larger
by-catch of peaceable immigrants. Its agents have set off waves of fear
and outrage, not only among illegal immigrants, but among citizens whose
privacy and security they have violated, through unchecked aggression,
carelessness and incompetence.

Last week, dozens of federal agents fanned out across Nassau County, Long
Island, to execute warrants on accused gang members. County Executive
Thomas Suozzi and Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey were so dismayed
that they have refused to cooperate on further raids until ICE gets its
act together.
They described a seriously botched "cowboy" operation by dozens of ICE
agents -- some in cowboy hats -- who had not trained together, used
inappropriate weapons and mistakenly drew them on Nassau officers. They
said that ICE misled them -- that what was supposed to be a targeted gang
crackdown was actually something much more sloppy and indiscriminate. They
said the agency ignored repeated invitations to check its list of targets
against Nassau's up-to-date gang records and ended up raiding many wrong

The raids were stunningly ineffective. Nassau says they caught only 6 of
96 fugitives. ICE, using a looser definition of "gang member," said it got
13 in Nassau and 15 in neighboring Suffolk. There, Peggy De La
Rosa-Delgado, an American citizen, said her Huntington Station home was
raided by mistake last Thursday at 5:30 a.m. It was the second predawn
raid looking for the same man at the same wrong address. Her husband and
three teenage sons, legal residents, were terrified, she said.

ICE officials callously shrug off such mistakes as collateral damage, but
advocates for immigrants have filed a class-action lawsuit asserting that
recent raids in the New York City area were unreasonable searches
conducted by agents who did not show warrants and misidentified themselves
as police officers. Mr. Suozzi has written to the Homeland Security
secretary, Michael Chertoff, asking him to investigate the Nassau debacle.

Mr. Suozzi deserves praise for having the courage to oppose mindless
immigration enforcement while affirming a commitment to sane policing and
public safety. President Bush has repeatedly insisted that the
undocumented immigrants cannot, and will not, be rounded up. He and Mr.
Chertoff must stop these reckless raids.

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