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ACLU: Immigration officials considered racial profiling

Posted February 25, 2013
Updated February 26, 2013

— The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says emails obtained through a federal public records law show that the federal government was considering a plan that would encourage racial profiling in an effort to meet what the ACLU calls quotas to deport illegal immigrants.

Raul Pinto, a staff attorney for the group, said Monday that the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement emails from May 2012 detail 10 initiatives to increase "criminal alien removals," including one such plan – the DMV Project – that would involve working with the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

"ICE was basically working under quotas," Pinto said. "They had to meet a certain number of deportations on a yearly basis or else there could be consequences."

The emails make mention of numbers falling short in the removal of criminal aliens – 1,200 fewer than the prior year out of the Atlanta region, which includes North Carolina.

The DMV Project involved getting access to a listing of denied driver's license applications and temporary licenses issued to foreign-born applicants.

"These types of policies breed racial profiling," Pinto said. "These policies, they catch and detain and interrogate folks who are here legally."

The emails were discovered as the ACLU was investigating complaints in May that immigration agents were questioning the immigration statuses of drivers during a seatbelt checkpoint in Jackson County.

Vincent Picard, spokesman for ICE's Atlanta Field Office says no such quotas exist but that it does have "targets" – performance goals required by Congress for budgetary reasons.

Immigration agents were at the Jackson County checkpoint, he said, at the request of the local sheriff's office.

Of the 15 people that ICE detained, Picard said, all but one had a criminal conviction and the other was in the country illegally after already being deported.

The DMV Project, he said, was never implemented.

Marge Howell, a spokeswoman for the DMV, said it routinely helps local, state and federal law enforcement agencies with investigations but that it has no agreement with ICE to report drivers or to provide information on those who apply for driver's licenses.

Picard said that, out of the other initiatives mentioned in the emails, only one is currently in place: "criminal alien surges" in which ICE agents work weekends and nights at local jails to identify illegal aliens who would normally be released before their immigration statuses could be investigated.

"ICE is focused on smart, effective enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States," Picard said. "ICE’s 2012 year-end removal numbers highlight this focus."

Approximately 75 percent of people deported in the southern region were convicted criminals – 66 percent were serious offenders. Of the remaining who were deported, he said, nearly 1,500 had been previously convicted of DWI offenses.


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  • Sherlock Feb 26, 2013

    The ACLU just looking for something to justify their reason for being nothing more.

  • atheistswillrule Feb 26, 2013

    How can it be racial profiling when the problem lies completely with one group of people! People wake up! lwe1967

    Huh?!!!!!! You can't be serious. Do you have even the slightest comprehension of what you just wrote? That's the very essence of profiling EINSTEIN!!!!!!!!! When you say "the problem lies completely with one group of people" and "How can it be racial profiling" in the same sentence. Really? Every computer screen in the Triangle dimmed a bit when you posted that dumb illogical statement.

  • lwe1967 Feb 26, 2013

    In my opinion, the ACLU is an obnoxious organization and should be banned. They are trying to undermine every aspect of the laws in this Country. How can it be racial profiling when the problem lies completely with one group of people! People wake up! I hope that State legislatures will ban the ACLU before they bury us!

  • 75Tarheel Feb 26, 2013

    I don't have that to worry about. I'm a law abiding citizen. Not so with ILLEGAL ALIENS.

    Profile away LEO's.

  • eric52272 Feb 26, 2013

    Can anyone tell me how you would enforce immigration laws without racial profiling? I mean the entire job of an immigration official requires profiling.......

  • mustainemad Feb 26, 2013

    somebody needs to consider it...

  • BaseBallMommy Feb 26, 2013

    Am I the only one that thinks this is crazy? We have a huge issue with Mexicans coming into the US illegally. So if you see a Mexican than ask for papers to show he/she islegal. If someone said a white lady with brown hair did something illegal then they should look for at all white women with brown hair. Common sense!!!

  • NYtoNC81 Feb 26, 2013

    Morrigan: Neither should whites, but we are. Just ask the proud illegals who threaten to take "back" this country by force. Or the blacks whose leaders periodically stir up another cash grab from whites. Or the Indians who are still complaining that whites came here illegally.

    Me: I'm sorry, but how are we held accountable? I have no "white guilt" as some might say, but I've never been inconvenienced at all because of my skin color being white either.

    You're using extreme examples (admittedly one's that I've never even heard of -- especially American Indians) to justify discriminatory monitoring of other groups.

    And again, in Arizona, they weren't targeting legal citizens obviously because that would be counterproductive to what they were trying to do. But by targeting an entire race, they were mistakenly creating headaches (and in some cases arrest) for plenty of legal citizens who did nothing wrong but exist and look differently than you or me.

  • bngexpress Feb 26, 2013

    sorry folks but if it looks like a duck , walks like a duck , talks like a duck (and cannot provide legal proof that said duck is suppose to be here ) , and it is my job to remove the ducks that are breaking the law to stay here , then yes sir i will stop every single duck i see. the end!

  • tonycheeek Feb 26, 2013

    "I ask you all again, would you have a problem if on the way to work every single morning you were pulled over and questioned for something even though you did nothing wrong?" ~ NYtoNC81

    This statement sounds too incredibly anecdotal be be factual or reasonable. Try again.