Page 2 of 2   <      

Reversals by immigration officials are sowing mistrust

Once the report was completed, officials said, they were not going to make the results public. Spokesman Matthew Chandler said the findings would be shared with Congress and local law enforcement. A senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, previously said the report would not be publicly released because of "law enforcement sensitivities."

"They say one thing and do another," Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, complained recently about the federal agency. "They say they are going to do something and then backtrack."

Last Thursday, when ICE Assistant Director David Venturella was confronted at a Wilson Center event by a Hyattsville woman in deportation proceedings about the Secure Communities program he heads, Venturella told Maria Bolanos that she had not been targeted via the program. "You were not a Secure Communities referral or a hit."

Hours later, agency spokesman Brian Hale e-mailed to say: "To clarify this situation, Ms. Bolanos was in fact encountered through Secure Communities."

Bolanos was detained by immigration officials after she received an arrest warrant for selling phone cards without a license. That charge stemmed from an earlier call for help she made to police during a domestic dispute. An officer who responded saw phone cards on her table and, believing she was selling them illegally, issued a summons. The charge was soon dropped, but by then Bolanos's fingerprints had gone to ICE via the Secure Communities program, and she was detained and put into deportation proceedings.

Gibson said Venturella was only "trying to make a clear distinction that the domestic violence call was not a direct cause of her coming into ICE custody."

"To me it is not news that someone from ICE is misrepresenting stuff," said Gustavo Andrade, organizing director of CASA de Maryland, an immigration rights group that is helping Bolanos.

Doris Meissner, a former immigration chief during the Clinton administration and now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, said the problem was that Obama officials had found themselves in an impossible situation.

"On the one hand, they are embracing the idea that the laws need to be changed and current laws are not up to the task," she said, referring to administration pleas for an overhaul of the immigration system. "At the same time, it is their responsibility as executive branch officials, as the responsible heads of agencies, to implement the laws currently on the books."


<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company