Immigration Investigations and Deporting Human Rights Violators
Friday, April 20, 2007; 3:30 PM
Marcy Forman, director of the Office of Investigations at the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was online Friday, April 20 at 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss her office's work, including several arrests made recently under new human rights laws that deported former Latin American generals to face judgment in their home countries.
Denying Refuge to Human Rights Abusers (Post, April 20)
The transcript follows.
Forman runs the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Investigations -- the largest investigative arm within the Department of Homeland Security. In this capacity, Ms. Forman is responsible for more than 5,700 Special Agents and 156 U.S. field offices, as well as the Office of International Affairs, which includes 56 foreign attache offices. She is responsible for administering a budget of more than $1.2 billion.
Marcy Forman: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining me. I appreciate the chance to talk about the work that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is doing. We're responsible for enforcing more than 400 separate immigration and customs statutes -- so there is much to talk about. With that, I'll take your questions.
Bethesda, Md.: What's your take on the whole issue of whether ICE agents should be allowed to have the authority to do drug investigations? Wasn't that a big deal during the old Customs days?
Marcy Forman: You are right -- enforcing the nation's laws against drug smuggling was a big deal in the old Customs days, and it continues to be now as part of the Department of Homeland Security.
One of the unique ways in which ICE approaches the drug smuggling crime is to focus on the "smuggling" piece, the transnational nature of the crime. We also use our expertise to address the money laundering and other related criminal violations that go along with drug smuggling enterprises. Last year, ICE dismantled some major drug trafficking organizations, including the Rodriguez brothers, who were extradited from Colombia and responsible for approximately 80 percent of the cocaine that came into the United States.
ICE is still very much engaged in the war on drugs, along with our other international, federal, state and local law enforcement partners.
Baltimore: Marcy, why was the news release about the ICE raid in Baltimore removed from the ICE Web site about 30 hours after it was posted? No other article ever has been removed after being posted. Was it removed because some local political figure complained? The ICE news release has been captured and is still available on some non-ICE sites. Why don't you restore it to the ICE site?
Marcy Forman: I wasn't aware that it was, but I'll check on it. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Check back at the Web site.
Long Beach, Calif.: How does DHS/ICE find out that a person who might be requesting documentation to stay in the U.S. does indeed have a history as an abuser of human rights before they came to the U.S.?
Marcy Forman: These international investigations can be very complex and time-consuming.
Sometimes, we receive tips through our tip line -- 1-866-DHS-2ICE. You may be surprised to know that these human rights abusers often attempt to hide out -- frequently going so far as to disguise themselves among the very populations they abused. When members of these communities suspect or learn of their true identities, they demonstrate great courage by contacting us with the information we need to begin investigations.
Other times, through our more than 50 ICE international attache offices, the Department of State, Department of Justice, foreign law enforcement agencies, and international tribunals, ICE is able to exchange information, investigate cases and help bring human rights abusers to justice. They may face trial here or overseas for their crimes.
Rosslyn, Va.: As a citizens who abides by the laws of this country, I am disheartened that others do not. I reported a known illegal alien to the department of homeland security and they have done nothing about it. I reported this two years ago. Why do we even refer to immigrants as illegal when the government does nothing to them for breaking the law?
Marcy Forman: There's no question that those who violate our nation's laws should be held accountable for their actions. As I mentioned, ICE is responsible for enforcing more than 400 separate immigration and customs statutes. With such a large charge, one of the things we've done is to prioritize our operations; we've put national security at the top of the list, along with those who pose a threat to public safety.
At the same time, we've implemented an aggressive interior enforcement strategy that focuses on work site enforcement violations (including critical infrastructure), criminal and fugitive aliens, and other immigration status violators such as visa overstays.
We've made great strides - last year, we deported a record number of illegal aliens, and ended the so-called practice of "catch and release" at the border. In addition, in work site enforcement cases, we prosecuted a record number of individuals for criminal violations -- 716 in 2006 compared with just 25 in 2002, the last full year of the INS.
Annandale, Va.: It would seem to me that you are handling an immigration crisis that took 20 years to get to where it is today. What do you believe turned the tide?
Marcy Forman: I can't speak for what was done in the past, but I can tell you that ICE is focused on aggressively enforcing our immigration and customs laws.
ICE was created in 2003 by bringing together elements of the former INS and Customs Service, as well as the Federal Protective Service. By combining the historical strengths and authorities of both agencies, we are attacking criminal organizations in ways the agencies didn't before -- for example, using ICE's money laundering authorities to attack human smuggling rings. Or, as we did just a few days ago, utilizing immigration statutes as part of an operation targeting a XXX ring.
ICE and DHS leadership have been very supportive of the agents' efforts to use our authorities in new and aggressive ways to accomplish our mission.
Herndon, Va.: Will implementation of 278(g) by Herndon and other municipalities help ICE to get its job done?
Marcy Forman: I can't speak directly to Herndon, but I can tell you that numerous municipalities that participate in 287g have found great success.
In North Carolina, for example, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office received its 287 (g) authority in February 2006. Sheriff's deputies in county jail facilities check the immigration status of all non-U.S. born arrestees. According to county documents, in the first nine months of the program, deputies examined over 1,600 arrestees, placing 853 of them in deportation proceedings. The county reports that the success of their program has resulted in other law enforcement agencies contacting them for information about the 287(g) program.
There are many more success stories and information about 287g posted on our Web site.
Providence, R.I.: With so many undocumented workers in the U.S., how do you decide which employers to target? Should employers and managers serve prison time for violating immigration laws? How long should prison sentences be?
Marcy Forman: ICE's investigations are based on investigative leads. We start with information -- tips from the public, confidential sources of information, other government agencies, other law enforcement agencies, and our own information such as the results of 1-9 audits.
We prioritize based on threat level, looking at national security and public safety threats, as well as egregious criminal violations such as identity theft.
In work site cases, one of the things we investigate is whether company owners or managers can be charged with criminal violations. If so, we bring those cases forward for prosecution. For some examples, check our Web site.
Marcy Forman: My time is up, but I would like to thank you all for your interest in ICE. I am sorry that I didn't get to all the questions, but feel free visit our Web site if you would like additional information.
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