Advertisement

The Very Best Way to Do It? : INS raid nets illegal immigrants all right--but even more questions

Illegal immigration is best checked at the border, not at the apartment door. Authorities who resort to crackdowns in the neighborhoods of Southern California risk resentment and infringement of rights.

Raids this week in Orange and El Toro raised so many disturbing questions that INS officials in Washington have agreed to investigate. And well they should. The apprehension netted 216 illegal immigrants but unleashed a hornet’s nest of complaints in the process.

There are vastly different accounts of what happened in one daybreak raid Wednesday at the low-income, largely Latino Orange Park Villas complex. But it’s been clear from the outset that Border Patrol, local police and code enforcement officers didn’t have their ducks in a row, offering stories that didn’t match about who was backing up whom.

The agencies descended after repeated community complaints about overcrowding, parking and sanitation problems, said to be related to illegal immigrants living at the complex. The Border Patrol says it set out to round up suspected illegal dayworkers at a nearby gathering place. A number of residents came forward afterward with complaints of innocent people threatened, doors kicked in and other property damaged. Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, a Latino rights group, Friday produced witnesses to bolster its claim that officers violated the rights of residents.

Advertisement

Federal and local officials haven’t clarified matters much by treating many of the charges as if they were the products of somebody’s imagination. Local police took a “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil” party line, and one captain was insensitive enough to dismiss a broken window with the remark that such things were “not unusual in that neighborhood.” Meanwhile, the agent in charge of the Border Patrol’s San Clemente office, which organized the raid, called the complaints “all fabricated.”

This is not how such matters should be handled. There’s a way to enforce immigration laws and a way not to. Washington will have to do a more credible job getting to the bottom of these serious accusations.


Advertisement
Advertisement