The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided three Detroit homes last Friday. Three unmarked minivans drove away with 18 illegal immigrants living at West Vernor and Calgary Streets.
ICE was in search of three people who had outstanding deportation orders. One person will be deported.
“(ICE) is trying to intimidate our community,” said Latinos Unidos coordinator Rosendo Delgado. “They are trying to make criminals out of us.”
Latinos Unidos is an organization that represents the Detroit Latino community.
The raid, part of ICE’s Fugitive Apprehension Project, came a few days before President Bush’s national address Monday night on immigration reform. Declaring an urgent need to secure the United States-Mexico border, Bush called for a two-fold increase in border patrol agents and a deployment of 6,000 National Guardsmen to the border.
Bush requested $1.9 billion to pay for the first 1,000 National Guardsmen to be deployed over a two-year period. Congress approved his request Thursday.
Bush also outlined a temporary worker program through which foreigners will be able to live and work in the United States for a limited period and then return home. He described a new identification card for legal foreign workers that will aid employers in distinguishing between legal and illegal immigrants.
Bush said a better system needs to be implemented to allow the current 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship, adding that such a system is not amnesty.
Latinos Unidos is against the guest worker bill in any form.
“Employers are having a field day, being able to exploit workers,” said Latinos Unidos member Elena Herrada. “There are no fines, no fees, no risks for the employers. The risk is all on the workers. The guest worker bill would legalize all of that.”
Latinos Unidos held a community meeting Monday, also attended by ICE officers, to protest the raids and to form strategies to prevent future aggression.
“We don’t have answers for militarizing the border, but we do know in the communities where we live we must defend people’s human rights,” Herrada said.
Co-director of the University’s Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations and RC Prof. Ian Robinson said illegal immigrants are vulnerable to exploitation because they have come across the border covertly and would be fired if they do not accept the wages and working conditions offered to them.
“They have to risk their lives to work for the crappiest jobs in my country,” he said.
Jobs, Robinson said, he wouldn’t even consider.
Robinson said Bush – who has experience governing a border state – began his presidency under the premise that he would forge better relations between the U.S. and Mexico.
Bush had to win the support of Hispanic voters and planned to do so by paying more attention to the situation of immigrant workers, Robinson said.
Robinson said Bush is now catering to the xenophobes and extreme members of the Republican Party, while still trying to promote immigration reform.
Herrada said Bush “really tried to walk the line” because there is a large constituency of Mexicans in the U.S. he does not want to offend.
But at the same time, Herrada said Bush did not want to upset the business cohort of the Republican Party.
“He also didn’t want to break up a deal with his friends,” Herrada said. “That is why he supports the guest worker bill, it provides a permanent underclass,” she said.
Robinson said business-minded members on both sides favor a liberal policy on immigration. Whether that requires legalization or an increase in guest workers, he said, is insignificant as long as cheap work is plentiful.
“Both parties have a business base that contributes a lot of money to the party, without which they wouldn’t be competitive,” he said.
The bases consist of the Christian right and cultural conservatives for Republicans and organized labor and social movement groups for Democrats.
“The Republican mass wing is having a hell of a time. The party is at loggerheads on this. The Democrats – for once – are less divided than the Republicans,” Robinson said, because Democrats are able to have a liberal stance without alienating a large portion of their party.