Immigration Nation Brilliantly Captures the Brutal Logic Behind America’s Immigration Enforcement Regime

“Given just how secretive ICE is, Clusiau and Schwarz pulled off a small miracle by using their pre-existing relationship with an ICE spokesperson to embed themselves in the agency just when President Donald Trump assumed office. For the next three years, they followed ICE around the country, from New York to Texas to Arizona, watching agents conduct raids, debate enforcement tactics, and plot media strategy while blithely upending—and ending—lives.

The documentary, whose more incriminatory parts the Trump administration tried to suppress, opens with a pre-dawn ICE raid on undocumented immigrants in New York. The raid marks the first day of the weeklong Operation Keep Safe—whose actual purpose, contrary to its name, was to instill fear. One ICE agent gushes as he gets ready for action: “I love my job.” A Hispanic agent, on the first day of his job, is giddy: “It’s Christmas for us.” Another exults that the change of administration means “it’s a different world now” where the “floodgates have opened.”

But who exactly is getting sucked in? Not folks with serious criminal histories. ICE’s own records show that only 13 of the 225 people arrested during that operation had serious crimes on their record. The vast majority of those arrested either had committed minor misdemeanors, such as DUIs, or were that unfortunate breed called “collaterals.”

Collaterals are undocumented people who have committed only visa violations—akin to speeding in a rational world—but happened to be in the vicinity when ICE came looking for someone else. If any agent has qualms about going after them, those reservations dissolve as the pressure of filling arrest quotas kicks in. ICE agent Brian’s experience makes this abundantly clear. Just when he was expressing his distaste for the practice, he got a call from his supervisor, who tells him “I don’t care what you do” just “get me two” arrests.”

“what’s jaw-dropping is to watch ICE agents openly bend and break the rule of law in the name of…enforcing the rule of law.”

“By law, ICE agents can’t enter and arrest until they are asked in. So how did they obtain an invitation? By lying and identifying themselves as police. If someone protested on seeing who they really were, the reaction essentially was “Tricked ya!”. The agents then calmly go about the grim business of handcuffing dazed fathers (and sometimes moms) while ignoring the pleas of their shell-shocked spouses and wailing children.”

“ICE and its sister agencies terrorize immigrants not just through its enforcement squads and detention camps, but by weaponizing its bureaucracy.
In recent days, reports have surfaced that immigration authorities—in an administration allegedly dedicated to slashing red tape—have quietly adopted a no-blanks policy that rejects visa applications if any part of a form is left unfilled. If someone does not have a middle name and skips that line, their petition gets thrown out. Ditto if they leave out the apartment number because they live in a house. The strategy is to make the process so hard for people who are trying to do it by the book that they abandon their quest to live in the United States.”

“One of the most heart-wrenching stories in Immigration Nation shows how the immigration bureaucracy chews up and spits out Carlos Perez. As a police officer in El Salvador, he offered intel on Salvadoran gangs to the New York Police Department. When the gangs found out, he and his wife fled, at one point swimming across a river with their two toddlers strapped to their backs. The precise details are a bit fuzzy, but it seems Perez sought asylum and was released into the country with work authorization, which he dutifully renewed on a regular basis. But his lawyer forgot to file a formal petition—something that occasionally happens because these migrants are too poor to buy quality representation and don’t have the language skills to navigate the byzantine system themselves. Many years later, when ICE realized this, it took Perez into custody. And after some months, ignoring his pleas that he’ll be killed if he returns home, sends him packing back. The fact that he had risked his life to help American law enforcement counted for nothing against his trivial lapse in paperwork.
At one point, we see him calling his family from a detention camp prior to deportation. He poignantly gives his son, a teenager who has to prematurely step into his dad’s shoes, instructions on making car payments and other such business. The ICE supervisor, who had total discretion over Perez’s fate, admits that Perez was trying to play by the rules. But in the end, he says, he gets “an inherent kind of satisfaction—I won’t say ‘joy’—in removing people who don’t belong in the country regardless of public sentiment.”

After Perez’s deportation, his son drops out of school, cashes in his meager savings, and tries to support the family. “I’ve lost all faith in the U.S. government,” he mourns.”

“And then there is the 63-year-old Guatemalan woman—petite, frail, terrified, and the furthest thing from a threat to the United States—who fled her country with her 12-year-old granddaughter. According the grandmother, an MS-13 gang member took a fancy to the preteen and demanded that grandma let him marry her or he’d kill them both. The two traveled for 10 days by land to reach the U.S. border and immediately turned themselves in at a port of entry, exactly as legally required. The granddaughter was released from detention after two months to join her mom, who lives in the U.S. The grandmother, however, was held in detention for 17 months—illegally, her lawyer claims, since she met the test for being released into the country while her asylum petition was considered. But she was a pawn in the Trump administration’s deterrence game, so the rules didn’t matter.

Her petition was eventually rejected. Before her lawyer could file an emergency appeal—as is perfectly in keeping with the rules—she was deported in the dead of the night. She wasn’t even allowed a phone call to bid her granddaughter good-bye.”

“Story after story in Immigration Nation shows how the government systematically games and breaks the rules to keep immigrants out. Yet one ICE agent smugly tells unauthorized immigrants, as he leads them to the bridge back to Mexico, to “try to do it the right way” next time, because, the right way is “always the best way.” He seems oblivious to the fact that even before Trump arrived on the scene and gutted legal immigration, few options to come in the “right way” existed for low-skilled migrants: Every administration since President Lyndon Johnson has been slamming doors in their faces.”

Immigrants Have a Right to Privacy Too

“The Trump administration has started forcibly collecting DNA samples from immigrants in detention and sending that information to an FBI criminal database called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) for permanent storage. Officials say this is a crime-fighting move. In reality, it is mass surveillance.
In 2005, Congress passed the DNA Fingerprint Act, requiring genetic testing of anyone arrested for a federal crime, regardless of whether they’re eventually charged and convicted. The Supreme Court approved this gross invasion of individual privacy in Maryland v. King (2013), ruling 5–4 that the law did not violate constitutional protections against illegal searches and seizures because the original arrest had required probable cause.

The DNA Fingerprint Act gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) latitude to exempt noncitizens from being sampled. There’s a very good reason for that: The vast majority of these folks are detained not because they have committed serious crimes with actual victims but because a harsh Clinton-era enforcement law vastly increased detentions for nonviolent immigration-related offenses. The Obama administration used this latitude to exempt immigrants from DNA sampling unless they were charged with another crime or were awaiting deportation proceedings. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano pointed out at the time that taking DNA from the 30,000 immigrants who were then detained would pose “severe organizational, resource and financial challenges”—not to mention distract from actual crime-fighting.

The detained population has grown larger still, yet the Trump administration is arguing that these logistical concerns are outdated because the collection of DNA samples has become easier and cheaper. Customs and Border Patrol has gone ahead and launched pilot programs at several immigration centers around the country. Government estimates suggest that once the program is fully implemented, such centers will be sending 748,000 DNA profiles to CODIS every year. That’s more than the entire state of New York has contributed in more than 20 years”

E-Verify: Making Life Harder for Workers and Small Businesses, With Enthusiastic MAGA Support

“”there are non-trivial set-up, training, and compliance costs to using the system. These costs are particularly cumbersome for small firms, which a 2011 analysis suggested would spend $2.6 billion on compliance-related costs if forced to utilize E-Verify.”

The law, which is currently imposed on some or all workers in 22 states, is thus widely flouted, and smaller firms are more likely to evade it.”

“The economists found reasons to believe that E-Verify produces “significant declines in Hispanic worker employment.” But they saw “no evidence that native-born workers benefit from E-Verify mandates,” and in fact found that those mandates “reduce employment among some lower-skilled groups of native-born workers.” Specifically, “the passage of any E-Verify mandate reduces employment among natives with a high school degree or less education by 2.7 percent,” an effect “entirely driven by reduced employment among low-skilled natives who are 16 to 40 years old.””

“the authors did not find evidence that E-Verify lowers the actual “potentially undocumented population” in areas where the system is enforced. The authors suggest that they’re instead getting by with “increases in supplementary family income sources”—i.e., being helped by others in their households.”

“when something goes wrong with the system, nearly half of the problem cases can take up to eight days to resolve, creating uncertainty and paralysis for both hired and hirer—and giving employers an incentive just to cut out potential workers who might have eventually made it through the system.

How often does E-Verify mistakenly mark people as legally unable to work when they should have been approved? About 0.15 percent of the time, which sounds impressive, but if it were applied to every American worker via federal mandate it would leave more than 187,000 people a year barred from work for no reason at all.

The system can be gamed with borrowed or stolen identify documents, and the low compliance with state mandates does not hold out promise of success for any federal mandate that might come along.”

Bipartisan House Agriculture Bill Is a Win for Both Farmers and Immigrants

“”I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally,” said President Donald Trump during his 2019 State of the Union address. But migrants need a way to do that. At present, those opportunities are few and far between: A low-skilled immigrant from Mexico would have to wait an average of 131 years to successfully immigrate to the U.S.

“If we want illegal immigration to end, Congress has to guarantee farmers a better way to follow the law,” writes Daniel Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.”

“While some worry that these visas displace American workers, U.S. farmers are required by law to offer H-2A positions first to people who can already legally work in the U.S. They seldom find enough takers. The Cornell Farmworker Program found that dairy farmers rely on undocumented workers because they cannot identify a sufficient amount of U.S.-born employees to fill the positions. This might explain why approximately 50 percent of all farmworkers are undocumented immigrants, according to the Department of Agriculture.”