On the corner of Mt. Elliot and E. Jefferson in Detroit sits a gated brick building that was dedicated to Rosa Parks last year. During the Civil War, the building was used as a hospital and morgue. The sign at the entrance reads: “Federal Building: U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
Inside is a holding cell used to detain undocumented individuals.
Robin Baker, the field office director for Detention and Removal Operations within ICE, unlocks the cell’s door, where a single man stands in the far corner.
It’s early Friday afternoon, and sunlight pours through a window onto two grey tables with stainless steel chairs in the dorm-room-sized cell.
The man, about 20 years old, says he is a student at Ferris State University. He is tall and slight, with short dark hair and dark eyes. He wears street clothes and speaks with a Middle Eastern accent.
After locking up the cell and walking away, Baker says the man probably dropped out of school to find work. Baker cannot be certain because he is not aware of this man’s situation. But he says it is common for foreigners to come to the United States with student visas and then leave school to find work.
In another room, a woman is interviewing a man and woman recently captured by ICE.
Down the hall, there is a large office space. Many of the employees’ desks are empty.
This is because the officers are in the midst of Operation Motor City – an operation to capture 65 individuals in the Metro Detroit area that have violated immigration laws. Of the 65, 23 have criminal convictions.
The size of this weekend’s operation was typical for the local Fugitive Apprehension Team, which serves Michigan and Ohio, Baker said.
Currently, there are 28 Fugitive Apprehension Teams in the U.S., but the number will eventually grow to 38. Each team has an apprehension goal of 1,000 per year.
The operations are often mischaracterized as ‘raids’ by the media, Baker said. Whereas a raid is random and reckless, operations are carefully planned procedures, he said.
Following apprehension, officers interview each individual. Then, a “notice to appear” is issued, informing the person to report to a port of entry and present proper documentation, Baker said.
If a law has been violated, the individual must appear before an immigration judge.
The judge may order them to leave the country immediately or grant voluntary departure. Depending on the reason for removal, a bar is instated, which prevents the person from returning for five, 10 or 20 years.
“They shouldn’t be here,” Baker said of illegal immigrants. “We are trying to protect citizens by removing these criminals.”
Summer in Rural Michigan
About 80 miles Southwest of Detroit, in Lenawee County, migrant workers willsoon re-emerge to harvest pickling cucumbers and strawberries.
With a population of about 100,000 workers at any given time during the year, peaking during mid-June and July for the growing season, Michigan is one of the top five receiving states for migrant workers.
Throughout the summer, participants in the University’s Migrant Outreach Program make bi-weekly trips to the workers’ camps where they serve as interpreters and teach ESL and pesticide training classes.
The University’s English Language Institute and Residential College co-founded the program in 2002, which also includes a University class during the spring semester.
A shortage of migrant workers is predicted this year because of ICE “sweeping away (the workers) in buses,” ELI coordinator John McLaughlin said.
ICE’s crackdown has had a huge impact on families, making people afraid to leave their homes, McLaughlin said.
Immigration reform has been on the political ticket for months. Two weeks ago, the United States Senate passed a bill that would allow 200,000 new guest worker visas each year.
Immigrants will also be grouped into one of three tiers. Individuals who have been in the U.S. for at least five years may remain and apply for citizenship.
Those who have been in the U.S. for two to five years would have to leave the United States and return to their country of origin. There, they can apply for a green card and most likely gain admittance back into the United States The third tier consists of those who have only been in the U.S. for two years – about two million immigrants. This cohort of individuals would be deported immediately.
A joint House and Senate committee hearing is expected to significantly mark-up the bill.