Looking ‘Illegal’ : ICE Deportations Based on Appearances

With the United States Government on a rampage to get rid off all ‘illegal’ immigrants, it seems we should all be on the lookout. Whether legal, ‘illegal,’ or not even an immigrant at all, if you look foreign, there is a chance the the government will try to deport you.

According to an Associated Press report, there are 55 documented cases in which the United States has deported or detained US citizens, and perhaps many more. According to the LA Times, an ICE raid at last year at Micro Solutions Enterprises, a Van Nuys printer cartridge manufacturer, generated more than 100 wrongful-arrest claims. Though these employees were held for several hours, some citizens have even been detained for up to five years in order to clarify immigration status.

In a recent OP/ED appropriately titled America is Simply Losing it, Folks, Dave Lindroff comments on the increase in detaining and deportation of US citizens because police officers attended a Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS] training program to learn how to pick immigrants off the street. Now after their courses, many cops are practicing what they learned in these classes and simply detaining anyone who even ‘looks like an immigrant.’ One in ten Hispanics were questioned about there immigration status by police officers in 2007 during routine traffic stops, a total violation of human rights. The author points out that the US has been trying to weed out ‘illegal’ immigrants ever since the scare of 9/11, but deporting US citizens is nothing new. He recalls a friend who was only half Hispanic that would frequently be deported to Tijuana in the 1970’s because he did not carry any ID on him and looked very Hispanic.

Earlier this month, Suzanne Gamboa of the AP described the incidents that led up to the deportation of one US citizen, Pedro Guzman. Guzman, jailed for a misdemeanor charge, was mentally ill and unable to read or write, and unknowingly signed a paper agreeing to leave the country. Left homeless and eating out of garbage bins in Tijuana, Guzman was found 3 months later attempting to jump the border. His family states that he still has psychological issues associated with his abandonment in Tijuana. The article goes on to tell of several other stories related to deportation and inhumane detention acts the US government and the INS has carried out on US citizens. Guzman’s brother states, “It doesn’t matter whether you are a citizen or not. If you look Hispanic, they can question you. Deportation can happen to anybody."

What does “American” look like anyway? Does it have a single, distinctive look? As Lindorff points out, the truest Americans would have to be Native American, and US Government has already detained and deported many native communities onto reservations.

Immigration continues to be a divisive issue in the US, especially given current economic instability. The Obama administration has yet to act on reforms promised on the campaign trail, but some immigrant advocates expect the government to address the sitiuation by shifting the emphasis of enforcement to target employers, instead of workers. The question of amnesty, granting legal status to 12 million currently ‘illegal’ immigrants, is also on the table. While those opposed to amnesty panic that legalizing immigrants will “sap hard-pressed federal, state and local coffers,” Reuters reports that newly legalized citizens could improve the economy by “boost[ing] tax revenues and unleash[ing] a pent-up spending.”