“Operation Return to Sender” is one example of the types of names that employees of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement use for their programs.
Originally, the program was created to round up undocumented immigrants that were considered to be dangerous, including criminals and terrorism suspects. However a few years later, the program shifted from targeting individuals like these to targeting undocumented immigrants with no criminal record or deportation orders, according to the New York Times.
One example is the raids that took place in New Haven in 2007. According to lawyers at Yale’s immigration law center:
Agents who found no one home at an address specified in a deportation order simply knocked on other doors until one opened, pushed their way in, and arrested residents who acknowledged that they lacked legal status.
The shift is evident. After looking at five years worth of data, Julie Meyers, former chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reported that of the 96,000 people apprehended, almost three-quarters had no criminal record.
While racking up the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended, there is a blatant disregard for the families which are separated and affected by these actions.
“It looks like what happened here is that the law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the political agenda of the [Bush] administration,” says Peter L. Markowitz.
Furthermore, financing for this program has risen dramatically—from $9 million in 2003 to $218 million in 2008. As Americans cope with the current recession, it is hard to imagine that this much money is spent instilling fear into immigrants. Rather than spending on this program, it would probably be more beneficial to spend this money elsewhere.
Contributed by Angela Donadic, Policy and Advocacy Fellow