From WatertownDailyTimes.com, “ICE tactics spur debate” by Marc Heller, Times Washington Correspondent, 3 Apr 2011.
Senator Gillibrand: Complaint lodged with Homeland Security
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand joined the debate over the arrest of a Jefferson County farmer on immigration charges, complaining to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about aggressive tactics by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
Among other complaints, she cited reports that one of the detainees accused of being in the country illegally was forced by police to stay in a patrol car for hours with the body of his dead father, whose fatal fall in a farm accident March 20 touched off the investigation.
The reported car incident came before the son was formally detained, Mrs. Gillibrand wrote.
“It is critical that ICE treats all persons involved with dignity throughout its arrest procedures,” she wrote. “I am concerned with the level of aggression in last week’s arrests at Butterfield Farms.”
The senator also questioned why ICE apparently waited six days after the detentions began to ask the farmer, John Barney, for the relevant documents that would indicate the workers’ immigration status.
Those documents, called I-9 forms, would indicate to an employer the workers’ status.
Mr. Barney was charged with harboring illegal aliens.
Mrs. Gillibrand portrayed the incident as the latest in a series of overzealous enforcement actions by immigration agents in upstate New York. Farmers and farm groups have complained for several years about raids on upstate farms, where immigrant labor has become a big part of the workforce.
Farm groups in New York have been pressing for immigration reform, including a guest worker program, but Congress has been unable to reach a compromise due to disagreements about letting undocumented workers already in the country seek citizenship.
As a member of the House, Mrs. Gillibrand opposed allowing those workers to stay in the country under any conditions, riling some farm groups. She has changed her position since joining the Senate.
Although she said she appreciates the urgency of immigration enforcement, Mrs. Gillibrand said the case illustrates the need for prudence in making arrests.
The incidents with Butterville Farms cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of the detention process, Mrs. Gillibrand wrote, reminding Ms. Napolitano that she wrote to the secretary in 2010 with concerns about racial profiling of people perceived to be immigrants along the U.S.-Canadian border.