Democrats Want to Stop Immigration-Enforcement Raids

By Allison Aldrich | July 30, 2008 | 6:41 AM EDT

( - Immigration reform advocates, including Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, are calling for an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids at businesses that knowingly hire large numbers of illegal aliens.
Meanwhile, a report published Tuesday by a Washington think tank shows that raids, along with other enforcement measures, are doing exactly what they are supposed to do: reducing the number of foreigners illegally working and residing in the United States. 
The report, authored by Dr. Stephen Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), says that the illegal-alien population in the United States has declined by more than one million persons in the past year.
CIS looked at a number of possible causes for the decline and concluded that increased enforcement measures have discouraged new illegal immigration and encouraged illegal aliens already here to ‘self-deport’.
“If the decline were sustained, it would reduce the illegal population by one-half in the next five years,” the report concludes.
While this comes as good news for advocates of border security and stricter enforcement of immigration laws, some in Congress have expressed concern about what they believe are the “harsh” tactics ICE is now using to arrest and deport illegal aliens.
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last Thursday addressing the largest immigration-enforcement raid in U.S. history, which happened in May in Postville, Iowa. Members heard testimony from fellow congressmen, representatives of enforcement agencies, and community leaders, many of whom said they considered the raids ‘inhumane’ and ‘misguided’.
“There are more effective and humane ways to enforce our immigration laws than through raids that terrify communities,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.)
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) agreed.  He called the raids part of a “brutal, payback, gotcha” agenda being pursued by the U.S. government.
The majority of Democrats in Congress have supported legislation to provide a “pathway to citizenship’ for illegal aliens currently working in the United States—even if they are fraudulently using someone else’s Social Security Number to do so. 
Both Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, favor this approach.
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, said there are humane ways to address the issue of illegal immigration without granting amnesty to illegal aliens.
“Illegal immigration can and should be reversed in America and it can be done gradually and humanely,” Gheen told “We have to secure the border, fine employers of illegal aliens, and give the good guys the tools they need to avoid problems. We have to remove taxpayer benefits like tuition breaks and licenses and empower local police to enforce immigration law.”
Gheen believes that politicians who want to give amnesty to illegal aliens have confused priorities.
“They are the elected representatives of Americans and they need to be concerned about the American citizenry,” said Gheen. “The part that’s missing here are the American victims of identity theft, marriage fraud, lost jobs, lost wages, lost community health, increased crime, lost tax resources.”
The National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigration advocacy group that opposes the worksite immigration-enforcement raids, believes amnesty can help reform the immigration system.
“We’re not going to enforce and deport our way out of the current illegal immigration situation,” Douglas Rivlin, National Immigration Forum’s director of communications, told
“There’s a fantasy of ‘attrition through enforcement,’ as though somehow 12 million people are going to choose to leave this country because there’s more opportunity in rural Guatemala or Chiapas than there is in New York City,” said Rivlin.
The CIS report, however, does say a significant number of illegal aliens have voluntarily left the country as a result of increased enforcement.
Minuteman Project President Jim Gilchrist believes Congress needs to encourage more, not less, enforcement.  “It’s not enough. It’s too little, too late,” he said. “We need a lot more resources before it gets substantially better.”