Revolution #80, March 4, 2007


Government Attacks Terrorize Immigrant Communities

The raids in the Bay Area are just a small part of a major assault on immigrant communities nationwide. More than 13,000 immigrants have been arrested in “Operation Return to Sender” which was launched on May 26, 2006. This was less than a month after millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets across the U.S. on May 1, 2006 to denounce unjust immigration laws.

The “Return to Sender” raids are carried out by the National Fugitive Operations Program’s (NFOP) “Absconder Apprehension Initiative.” NFOP was created after September 11, 2001 by the Patriot Act and it is part of the Department of Homeland Security. NFOP is administered by ICE’s Office of Detention and Removal.

NFOP and Operation Return to Sender are operating off a list of over 500,000 immigrants in the U.S. who they say are “fugitives.” But the vast majority of names on the list are immigrants whose only “crime” is staying in the U.S. after being ordered to leave. And the vast majority of those arrested in the raids are not even on the list--they are people without papers caught in the raids.

These raids are designed to terrorize immigrant communities. “We are going to send a message,” Robin Baker, who heads ICE’s Detention and Removal Operations for Michigan and Ohio, told a group of ICE slave-catchers in June as Operation Return to Sender began.

The U.S. government plans on expanding these raids and has greatly increased the number of ICE Fugitive Operations Teams, from 18 at the start of 2006 to 50 at the start of 2007. By September 2007, ICE intends to have roughly 75 teams deployed nationwide. And this doesn’t count local police that ICE is training in immigration enforcement in many parts of the country.

ICE also increased the prison beds it uses to house captured immigrants by 6,300 during the fiscal year 2006, bringing the current number of beds to 27,500. ICE has also approved a $385 million contract for Halliburton subsidiary KBR to build detention facilities in case of "an emergency influx of immigrants.”

Separate from the “Return to Sender” raids, worksite enforcement raids during 2006 reached a level that was more than seven times greater than in 2002, the last full year of operations for U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

All this is happening as legal rights of immigrants are being severely restricted. The New York Times recently wrote, “Laws enacted a decade ago and tightened after 9/11 distance even legal immigrants from the protection of the law. Immigrants are routinely detained without bond, denied access to lawyers, deported without appeal and punished for one-time or minor infractions with a mechanistic ferocity that precludes a judge’s discretion or mercy.” (Feb 18, 2007)

Meanwhile, the number of deaths of immigrants trying to cross into the U.S. has risen at an alarming rate. In 2005, according to official Border Patrol statistics (which underestimate the number of deaths), the number of people who died trying to enter the United States from Mexico rose more than 40% over the previous year to 460 people. (SF Chronicle, 10-1-2005).

The Binational Migration Institute (BMI) of the University of Arizona’s Mexican American Studies and Research Center found that between 1990 and 1999 there was an average of 14 immigrant bodies recovered per year in the Tucson border area. Between 2000-2005, on average, there were 160 recovered bodies each year. In other words the number of deaths increased ten-fold in this short period. In 2005, there were 201 known border crossing deaths in the area.

This is due to a conscious policy of militarization of the border, forcing immigrants to cross the border in the deadly deserts. Last year the government sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border. Bush’s 2008 budget proposal calls for an additional $13 billion for border immigration enforcement, including another $1 billion installment for the construction of both electronic and physical fencing. In addition the Bush budget provides $3.5 billion to pay for 3,000 new Border Patrol agents.


Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond