This past week’s immigration raids in Bellingham, Washington, show that the changes in the political administration didn’t necessarily lead to policy changes without specific action being taken by the new authorities. And, these officials shouldn’t just react once actions have occurred but should take the initiative to make changes proactively.
In this case, the Immigration and Customs Agency (ICE) used the same justification that it has used in previous raids: Searching for suspected criminals in nighttime raids of homes and at workplaces during the day. In these cases, the round-up ends in the arrest of undocumented persons who have nothing to do with the supposed purpose of the operation.
Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, seemed surprised by the ICE’s actions and she has called for an investigation into the manner in which it handled the operation. Her reaction is encouraging given what occurred, and we recognize that President Obama’s policy in this area is different from his predecessor. But, bad habits are hard to break.
This administration, as opposed to the previous one, has said that it will emphasize monitoring of employers who take advantage of undocumented labor and not just focus on the workers. This, in and of itself, is a significant change.
However, these are just band-aid solutions to the problems caused by the lack of comprehensive reform that would create immigration laws which take into account the realities of our time. Appropriate legislation would address the private sector’s need for labor with the concerns of homeland security and the safety of workers to a life without persecution.
We hope that immigration reform will be addressed this year; in the meantime, indiscriminate raids against workers that lead to family separations must be ended now.
La Opinión Editorial was first published March 3, 2009.