February 11, 2017

Los Angeles, CA - Please attribute the following statement on recent nationwide arrests by federal immigration officials to MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz:

"MALDEF is greatly concerned about widespread reports of increased federal immigration activities in the interior of the United States. The reported activities are a disturbing manifestation of the failed leadership of our federal government. Terrorizing immigrant families is not leadership; it is the epitome of cowardice, injustice, and cruelty.

Calculated public denials, by the federal agencies, of the full scope of these abhorrent activities demonstrates at least some cognizance of the counterproductive nature of the enforcement. However, there is no justification for failing to acknowledge and detail the full scope of the enforcement activities.

The extent of central direction of the enforcement activities is unclear. The haphazard nature of the activities and the denials of central direction suggest an appalling lack of command and control over agencies whose troubling histories of unconstitutional and non-transparent rights violations demand greater control, not less. His military background should lead Secretary Kelly to recognize the necessity of controlling Department of Homeland security rank-and-file officers, and he should act swiftly on that recognition.

Especially problematic are reports of collateral arrests of bystanders who happen to be present when warrants are executed. Collateral arrests for civil immigration violations are execrable acts characteristic of totalitarian regimes, not of the United States. This un-American practice must cease.

Also troubling are the apparent deportations of persons with final orders of removal where the previous Administration had exercised appropriate discretion to defer executing the orders. The irony is inescapable. Donald Trump, a person of great privilege and tremendous resources from the very day he was born, has demonstrated an increased penchant for publicly accusing judges and courts of being unfairly biased against him, both as a private businessperson and in public office. Yet, Trump apparently fails to recognize that poor immigrants facing language barriers and lack of legal representation might face far more substantial issues of bias and unfairness in the Immigration Court system – a system with far fewer protections of due process than the federal courts of which Trump has complained – and in state criminal court systems.

The removal of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos in Arizona epitomizes the problem. Garcia de Rayos apparently became a removal priority because she was once arrested by a sheriff’s department led by Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist adjudicated as such by federal courts, and was subsequently convicted of the ‘crime’ of working to support her family. Removing immigrants for working to support family violates many of the principles that have long made our country great.

Yes, there is injustice in our legal system, but it is not often experienced by wealthy and privileged businessmen. It is far more often experienced by poor immigrants of color demonized by irresponsible political leaders. And now that injustice is compounded by prioritized deportation. Sad."

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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