Michigan ICE, Accused of Abuse and Racial Profiling, Clears Itself of Wrongdoing

Immigrant rights advocates continue to press for accountability in an agency they say is corrupt.

By Julianne Hing Aug 12, 2011

Back in March, parents trying to drop off their kids at the Hope Academy in southwestern Detroit’s Latino immigrant neighborhood complained that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had staked out the school, trailing parents as they came and went. School administrators came forward to defend families, who took refuge in the school because they feared harassment. "We want this to stop," Hope Academy’s principal, Ali Abdel, said during a protest after the raid.

The Department of Homeland Security later confirmed that two families were indeed questioned and detained by ICE officials, despite ICE policy that cautions agents to avoid "sensitive" areas like schools. Abdel reported that attendance had plummeted since the raid, and students who did come were so gripped with fear that they couldn’t focus in class, People’s World reported.

Now, ICE has cleared itself of any wrongdoing in that and 12 other incidents in which it has been accused of abuse. An internal ICE investigation, conducted following outrage in the Michigan immigrant community, concluded recently that "ICE officers did not engage in any abuse or professional misconduct," ICE spokesperson Brian Hale said upon, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan’s immigrant community disputes that conclusion.

"Surrounding an elementary school with immigration agents is a serious problem that deserves a serious response, not a whitewash," Art Reyes from the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan said in a press conference this weekend, People’s World reported. Immigrant rights activists say that what happened at Hope Academy wasn’t an isolated incident, either.

Ivan Nikolov was forced to watch while his mother was strip searched by ICE officials in detention, and when he begged them to stop, they told him he ought to be grateful they didn’t shoot her, New America Media reported.

When ICE raided a family’s Cincinnati home in February, Andres Lopez and his family were terrified by ICE’s aggressive abuse, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. They burst into his home, handcuffed him and slammed him into a wall in his house while his fiance and children watched, creating a three-foot-long crack in the wall that’s still there. The ICE report, however said that Lopez was arrested "as an illegal alien" and when he resisted arrest, "was subsequently guided into a wall by the officers."

"We were very disappointed" in the report, Lawrence Garcia, president of the Michigan Hispanic Bar Association, told the Michigan Messenger. After the incident at Hope Academy garnered national attention and immigrant advocates demanded the ICE investigation, they hoped for some internal accountability from the immigration enforcement agency.

"The promise that we got was that we would have a personal return visit from [ICE Director] John Morton within 60 days and instead we got a self-serving report in 75 days with an inadequate explanation of the events that gave rise to so many complaints."

Immigrant rights advocates continue to press for accountability for what they call overly aggressive policing, excessive force and racial profiling that targets immigrants of color and leads to the violent treatment of people who come into ICE custody.

Garcia told Michigan’s 91.1FM that the organizing is not over. "So it’s not just about wanting a free pass for everyone who’s here. But it’s about having ICE be accountable for doing its job in a way that’s consistent with its internal policies, and general principles of America."