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El Diario/La Prensa Calls for Investigation into ICE

El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: Feb 20, 2010

NEW YORK -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has allegedly ensnared and endangered undocumented immigrants cooperating with the agency on investigations. This conduct warrants an immediate congressional investigation.

ICE does not want to comment on cases involving informants. But its agents were reportedly anything but mum to a family of undocumented immigrants that had settled in the Hudson Valley area of New York. For four years, Emilio and Analia Maya, siblings who left Argentina because of economic hardship, cooperated as informants with ICE. After an initial news report on this case, the Mayas were the subject of a backlash, with some members of their community, out of fear or feelings of betrayal, avoiding them.

But this story is more complex. In an exclusive interview with El Diario-La Prensa, the Mayas recount how they were approached by ICE. With agents dangling the possibility of legalizing their status and also in fear of the repercussions of rejecting a proposal from ICE, the Mayas began work as informants.

They say they were going after the bad guysemployers exploiting workers, drug traffickers, and coyotes preying on female immigrants to channel them into prostitution.

The Mayas wanted to end the fear they lived as undocumented immigrants. They believed, as they said they were told, that ICE would offer them a way out. And they say an immigration attorney had already sold them pipe dreams of legalization and ripped them off.

Whether the Mayas were nave or took a bad risk, their motivation was desperation. What also sounds clear is that ICE took full advantage of their vulnerability.

Besides working like beasts, as they put it, at their restaurant, the Mayas were volunteers in their townEmilio as a firefighter and Analia preparing translations for the police. After placing them in precarious situations to obtain information, ICE reportedly threatened to deport Emilio.

This conduct warrants an investigation into ICEs ethics and policies. Congressional hearings are in speedy order to determine to what extent the agency has cornered undocumented immigrants into serving as informants, only to turn on them. The approach of using people who can't say no must also be questioned.

This issue matters not only for victimized immigrants but also for public safety. If undocumented immigrants suspect that cooperating with law enforcement is only going to endanger them and offer no route to adjusting their status, then why take the risk of reporting information on crimes?

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