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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Immigration crackdown misguided

Palo Alto Daily News editorial:
Immigration officials continue to wreak havoc in the Bay Area through misguided enforcement efforts, uprooting longtime community members and creating hostility in the process.

Our advice to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security: Harness the resources you use to drive assimilated Bay Area families out of the country and use them instead to protect our infrastructure, inspect shipping containers and capture terrorists.

It makes sense to deport people who are here illegally but it's not clear that the federal officials can carry out that mission. Some of those caught in ICE's net have been here so long they have U.S.-born children in their teens.

The raids drew complaints from San Mateo County Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Jacobs Gibson complained that the federal agents identified themselves as "police." This can be a problem for local law enforcement agencies that are banking on the cooperation of the immigrant community to maintain law and order.

The city of Richmond has ordered its police not to cooperate with ICE raids. Other police officials seem content to remind everyone that it's not their job to enforce federal immigration laws.

The latest local resident snagged by federal authorities is Elaini Mahoni, an East Palo Alto resident who faces deportation to the Kingdom of Tonga. In 1995, an immigration judge ordered her deportation after she failed to attend a hearing. So on May 21, ICE officers took her into custody.

In the many intervening years, Mahoni has been caring for her disabled husband, a legal resident, and her three American children. Her attorney says Mahoni never received notice of the judge's order. Either way, we now face the prospect of seeing a family torn apart because of our federal agents' belated enforcement of immigration laws.

Agents arrested 1,811 people in Northern California with outstanding deportation orders. Among those caught in the crackdown was a Palo Alto family, Pedro Ramirez and Isabel Aguirre. They have four American children who faced placement in foster care. Eventually the family, which includes a 15-year-old boy, was forced to relocate to Mexico.

There's no dispute that immigration officials are following the law by forcing these people out of the country. But enforcing immigration violations more than a decade after the fact merely exasperates our community. Federal officials should either do a better job of enforcing the laws here or find better uses for our tax dollars.


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