AILA has issued a report titled Immigration Enforcement Off Target: Minor Offenses With Major Consequences, that challenges the claim made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it is focusing its finite resources on the "highest enforcement priorities" - namely those who
present threats to public safety and national security.
The report's anecdotal accounts, 127 case examples from AILA members covering incidents in 24 states and the District of Columbia, are consistent with DHS's own data showing deportation of tens of thousands of individuals who have been picked up for minor infractions and who pose no threat to our communities.
The report questions whether federal immigration agents should respond to individual roadside calls by local law enforcement unless there are indications that the person poses a risk to public safety Immigration enforcement must be targeted, and by responding to referrals from local law enforcement in a largely indiscriminate manner, DHS is being diverted from its own stated priorities. In addition, the report raises concerns about the erosion of community trust, hindrances to community policing, and racial profiling.
Eleven of the 127 cases in AILA's report took place in Texas. In six of those 11 cases, no criminal charges were pursued. In the remaining five cases, drivers were only convicted or ticketed for minor offenses like driving without a license, having a broken light, or having unpaid parking tickets. In two cases, police officers called ICE from the roadside, and held individuals until immigration officers arrived at the scene to take them into custody. Several cases include facts that suggest racial profiling, including some of those discussed below. In five cases, individuals were pulled over or questioned for no reason whatsoever, and two other cases involve traffic stopfor violations so trivial as to suggest the real reason for the stop was assessing immigration status. Five of the cases involve people with U.S. citizen children, spouses, or parents; atleast ten involve people with no previous criminal history.
:: In June 2011, a man was pulled over, and a sheriff's deputy immediately asked him for his passport. When the man asked why he had been pulled over, the deputy said it was because his lights were not on, even though it was already light out. The deputy wrote a ticket, recording the time 6:45am, even though the time of the stop was actually 7:15am. The officer held the man at the roadside until CBP officers came to pick him up. He is now in removal proceedings. The man's wife is a U.S. citizen, and he has lived in the U.S. for 15 years.
:: In June 2010, a man was leaving a convenience store when he was stopped by a sheriff's deputy and asked for identification. Since he could not produce any, he was arrested. Although he was not charged with any crime, he was taken to the sheriff's office and held until CBP picked him up. Later, he accepted voluntary departure.
:: In March 2011, a man was side-swiped by another driver who was making a turn. However, when the police arrived 15 minutes later and discovered that he did not have a license, they accused him of being at fault and questioned him about his immigration status. The other driver was let go, but he was arrested for driving without a license. ICE was contacted and he is now in removal proceedings. He is a longtime resident of the U.S., graduated from high school in the U.S., and is a leader in his church's youth group.
:: In June 2010, a man was driving with his family when a sheriff's deputy pulled him over because the light on their license plate was out. The deputy asked for a driver's license and proof of immigration status, both of which the man provided. The deputy then asked for identification from everyone in the car and ordered everyone out of the car, including the driver's wife and their three children. The driver's wife showed a valid Texas ID card, and the deputy then asked for proof of her immigration status. When she could not provide it, the deputy arrested her without charging her with any crime. She was held by the sheriff's office until CBP could pick her up. She has no criminalhistory and is a stay-at-home mom who has never driven in the United States. She is currently in removal proceedings.