(CNSNews.com) – A top official in the Obama administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said that the move away from work-site raids has reduced the number of illegal aliens who have been arrested and led to the release of many of those who had been detained.
David Venturella, acting director of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations with ICE, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security, made the remarks at an event at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
“I think there have been very few operations that have generated arrests of undocumented workers,” Venturella said at the event, which was held to mark the release of an Urban Institute report on the children of illegal aliens who are arrested for being in the country illegally, including some sought for criminal violations. “And in most cases, even though they were small scale, we follow our administrative guidelines on how to deal with individuals once they are arrested and placed in our custody.”
“And in many of those instances, they were released or placed on some form of alternative detention,” Venturella said. “So we will continue to proceed that way, at least under this administration.”
Venturella, who also worked for the DHS during the Bush administration as director of ICE’s Secure Communities program, told the group assembled at the institute that ICE has changed since President Barack Obama took office.
“From an agency perspective, I think you’ve seen a number of changes since the new administration has been seated, in particular for work-site enforcement,” Venturella said.
Venturella’s remarks followed those of Ajay Chaudry, the director of the Urban Institute’s Center on Labor, Human Services and Population, who helped write the report. Chaudry noted that the last ICE work site raid took place in February 2009 in Washington state.
“As Ajay noted, the last major operation was February last year, almost a year ago,” Venturella said. “And since that time the focus and strategy has shifted to the employers, to really focus more on compliance.”
Venturella said that compliance includes selling American businesses on using the federal E-Verify database to identify potential employees who may be in the country illegally.
“I think some of the recommendations in the report about more audits; certainly more education and training to employers, as well as encouraging employers out there to use the E-Verify system is the way this administration is proceeding with work-site enforcement operations,” Venturella said.
When asked by CNSNews.com to reconfirm that the number of arrests of illegal aliens is down and if reduced arrests could indicate that the Obama administration is not enforcing federal immigration laws, Venturella said less arrests are in keeping with the Obama administration’s immigration policies.
“As far as work-site enforcement arrests, those are certainly down from previous years,” Venturella told CNSNews.com. “And again, I think that’s the result of the change of focus – focusing on employers, focusing on compliance, and making sure that employers use the E-Verify system.”
The 80-page report released on Tuesday, Facing our Future; Children in the Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement, documents the cases of children whose parents have been arrested and detained, including those whose parents were taken into custody during work-site raids. The report includes a long list of recommendations to end what it says causes the suffering of those children, many of whom are U.S. citizens because they were born here.
Those recommendations include changing immigration laws to allow U.S. citizen minor children to petition the courts for their parents to become legal permanent residents, and implement stricter federal regulations on arrest and detention procedures for ICE and other law enforcement agencies, including allowing illegal aliens to continue to work while they contest their deportation.
The report also calls for “early alerts” by ICE of pending arrests of parents to the schools where children of illegal aliens attend classes, and the establishment of networks of attorneys to represent illegal aliens who have been arrested.