National Immigrant Justice Center’s Mark Fleming speaks at RU

By Lauren Grimaldi

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Photo Courtesy of Roosevelt College of Arts and Sciences Twitter

The Loundy Human Rights Project hosted a conversation with National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) director of litigation Mark Fleming on October 4. The discussion centered around immigration law and rights afforded to those who enter the United States illegally.

Bethany Barratt, the director of the Loundy Human Rights Project, introduced Fleming prior to the conversation.

“Today, we are honored to welcome Mark Fleming,” said Barratt. “…(He) was instrumental in drafting and passing of the Cook County, Illinois and Chicago detainer ordinances as well as the Illinois Trust Act.”

Fleming spoke of recent policies that have contributed to the rise of issues immigrants may face. He said that the rise in immigration enforcement was not seen until the post 9/11-era.

According to Fleming, it was then that the budgets for these specific entities began to expand. Just over a decade later, The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were said to be deporting an average of 400,000 immigrants in 2012.

“By 2013, the budget for ICE and CBP was 25 percent larger than the FBI, DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency), Secret Service and the U.S. Marshals combined,” Fleming said. “…It gives you an idea of how radically we have changed towards immigration as a country.”

Additionally, Fleming said that local police forces have played a major role in the enforcement of immigration laws as well.

He cited the creation of the Secure Communities program in 2008 as a beginning to this issue. It sought to collect information on immigrants that have committed crimes and use it to detain and even deport them. Though this program, federal, state and local police departments worked in conjunction with one another. Meaning, ICE receives the fingerprints and booking information for potential deportation or detainer purposes. Once arrested, this can reported to ICE who can then order the law enforcement agency to detain the individual for up to 48 hours.

This late Bush Administration policy was not ended during former president Barack Obama’s tenure. ICE was able to deport thousands of immigrants from the data retrieved in this program.

The controversy lies within multiple reports of faults in the system that led to wrongful deportations, punishments and unfair trials.
According to a 2011 study from the UC Berkeley School of Law, only 24 percent of arrestees had an attorney for their immigration hearing. Consequently, 52 percent of arrestees were scheduled to have a hearing before a judge. It was also said that 3,600 U.S. citizens were arrested by ICE during this time.

Fleming specifically cited the inclusion of local law enforcements as one of the causes of this increase in deportations and arrests. Because ICE can request that the local law enforcement holds the individual until an agent can get to the scene, the law enforcement is given power that they otherwise would not have. Fleming argues that this is unconstitutional and part of his work with the NIJC has been attempting to stop it.

“You have immigrants that are terrified of driving to work or driving their kids to school. They are terrified of any sort of interaction with law enforcement,” said Fleming. “By having the Secure Communities Program, effectively what the federal government has done is turn every law enforcement agent into an ICE agent.”

Under the Trump administration, ICE has arrested more individuals than in previous years, but deportations have slightly decreased, according to the Washington Post.

More recently, the implementation of sanctuary cities and states has seen increased popularity. Fleming worked with lawmakers to create the Illinois TRUST act which seeks to limit the communication that a law enforcement agency can have with ICE.

Governor Bruce Rauner signed this bill into law on Aug. 28.

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