New report draws unsettling — and too familiar — picture

In immigrant communities, federal agents and police officers often are seen as the bully, the terror-inducing abusive officer. Whether or not that reputation is deserved, it’s fueled by troubling reports in which some agents abuse their power and exploit Latinos — documented and undocumented alike.

Accounts of those abuses are fairly routine in Spanish language media – usually as front page stories — but they are rare in mainstream outlets.

A report released today by the Immigration Justice Law Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law paints a clear and public image of abuse of power by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents. The report chronicles predawn raids by immigration agents who forced themselves into the homes of immigrants — even U.S. citizens — in violation of the Constitution and agency rules.

But for immigrants, the study reports abuses that they already are too familiar.

Some make the 6 o’clock news. For example, last week in Durham we learned that an immigration agent attempted to blackmail an immigrant woman into having sex with him. A similar case was reported last year in Durham involving a State Trooper.

It’s impossible to say whether the abuses in the Cardozo report represent standard practice. But who can argue that our severely broken and dysfunctional immigration system isn’t fertile ground for such misconduct?

Unless Congress passes humane immigration reform soon, we’re likely to hear about more abuses. And our communities will be less safe.

No one wins when a segment of our population is forced into the shadows because they fear for their safety — even from those who are charged with protecting them.

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