Back on the Scene

With just more than two months until the USA chooses its next President, the nation's focus seems to lie squarely on John McCain and Barack Obama (and sometimes Paris Hilton). Though immigration issues seem, as yet, to have little if any share of the spotlight on the campaign trail, things on the ground are perhaps hotter than ever.

We've witnessed more actions and counter-actions on the local level. The largest workplace raids in history have paired with continuing pre-dawn raids on individuals' homes -- both of which sometimes sweep up U.S. citizens, legal residents and other non-removable individuals with what many allege to be an appalling disregard for human rights. In one instance, legal advocates have filed a complaint on behalf of a group of individuals against ICE and some of its employees for alleged civil rights violations. There are further allegations of ICE's abusing detainees while in custody, like this story about a man whose cancer and broken spine went untreated until his death while in the hands of ICE. And DHS now seems to enjoy using small and often long-ago criminal infractions (like stealing a pen) as grounds for deporting documented immigrants.

Yet, pro-enforcement advocates say, for perhaps the first time, that enforcement of immigration laws is happening -- and helping. They cite the Census Bureau's report of sinking numbers of less-educated Hispanic migrants as a sign that enforcement is working, that the undocumented population is declining; although, they acknowledge that our floundering economy probably has an effect on migration, as well.

This all leaves me with a lot of questions. With public attention turned largely towards how many houses McCain owns (7) and whether Obama wears a flag pin in his lapel (he does now) -- and whether Paris is really going to run -- has ICE been left to its own devices? And has it overstepped its bounds? What happened to all the blustering and attempted legislation on Capitol Hill that we saw so much of in the recent past? With so many of us scrambling to put food on the table and casting wary eyes towards winter heat prices, have immigration concerns taken a necessary back seat? Or do the battles now take place more on local levels, as the national political scene remains embroiled in other crises and trends? Do our economic woes push us further into scapegoating the foreign-born? Or are undocumented immigrants adding to the economic woes? Is enforcement effectively reducing the undocumented population? If so, is it doing it in a way we can live with?

Now that we've returned from our hiatus, Open Veins will delve into these and other questions, particularly during the crescendo of the election cycle. We'll also bring you the exclusive story of a Salvadoran man recently wrongly arrested and detained by ICE who claims that -- on top of his wrongful arrest and attempted removal from the country -- he suffered humiliation and civil rights violations at the hands of our Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Stay tuned. And welcome back.

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