The Office of the Public Advocate for the US Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) held a series of “community roundtables” with numerous left-wing groups that have been lobbying the Obama administration for years to reduce the detainee population in ICE facilities because those groups believe that the Obama has been arresting, holding, and deporting far too many illegal aliens. These roundtables were held regularly for three months prior to the release of several thousand suspected illegal aliens from a number of ICE facilities in February 2013.
According to a newsletter published in February 2013 by Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, the Public Advocate for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Public Advocate team organized a series of appearances in a number of “community roundtables” sponsored by groups like the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), El Centro Hispano, the International Institute of Connecticut, and the International House in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lorenzen-Strait has been the Public Advocate at ICE since that position was created by the Obama administration in February 2012. Ostensibly, he’s supposed to represent the public, but in reality, no less than the Huffington Post acknowledged that the post was created specifically to address the complaints of left-wing groups that were complaining that the Obama administration was being heavy-handed in its deportation and incarceration immigration policy.
In a story titled “Immigrant Advocates Skeptical On New DHS Public Advocate Position” by Huffington Post writer Elise Foley on February 7, 2012, that’s the exact impression given regarding the new position of the ICE Public Advocate:
The agency tasked with finding and deporting undocumented immigrants announced on Tuesday the creation of a new position that will work with non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups and immigrants to make sure their voices are heard.
Immigration advocates said they are hopeful, but will believe it when they see it.
In December 2012, the Public Advocate team says it met with community activists in Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina in a “community roundtable” with one roundtable sponsored by a group called “El Centro Hispano in Durham.”
In December 2012, the Public Advocate Team held community roundtables in Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina. We are grateful to El Centro Hispano in Durham and International House in Charlotte for allowing us to hold these events at their facilities. ERO field office leadership were present at both meetings to ensure stakeholders were able to connect with them directly and to respond to questions pertinent to the field. ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) also sent representatives to the meetings. Participants at both meetings indicated that they were pleased with the content and format of the events. While in the region, the PA Team also toured the York County Detention Center in South Carolina to talk to detainees and assess the overall conditions of the facility.
According to the website of El Centro Hispano, one of the activities it sponsors is “community organizing.” The group is primarily funded by the left-wing Z Smith Reynolds Foundation.
The Capital Research Center is a 501©3 that is dedicated to being a watchdog group to left-wing charities and philanthropies.
According to Scott Walter, the Executive Director of CRC, Z Smith Reynolds is the largest foundation in North Carolina and the leading funder of left-wing groups in that state. Its money comes largely from the family of tobacco company RJ Reynolds.
Another 501©3 Z Smith Reynolds funded in North Carolina, Blue Print North Carolina, was involved in coordinated political efforts with the state’s Democratic apparatus. That is entirely inappropriate for such a non-profit because they receive favorable tax treatment precisely because they don’t get involved in partisan matters.
While Z Smith Reynolds claimed to not be aware of Blue Print North Carolina’s activities, the philanthropy supplied $400,000 of Blue Print’s $1 million budget.
In January 2013, the roundtable roadshow was moved to New England, with a meeting in Boston, Massachusetts and one in Hartford, Connecticut hosted by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).
According to data provided by CRC, among the funders for MIRA include the National Council of La Raza, George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and James Knight Foundation, a well-known left-wing foundation.
The exact locations for the February roundtables hadn’t been set when the newsletter went out, but Lorenzen-Strait said that his office wanted to travel to California, Oregon, and Arizona, and he wanted to visit the facility in Florence, Arizona specifically.
Looking ahead to February 2013, members of the Public Advocate Team will travel to Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. We will hold community roundtables in Phoenix, Orange County, and Portland and will meet one-on-one with several immigrant advocacy organizations in Seattle. We also intend to tour multiple detention facilities throughout the trip, including the Florence Service Processing Center and Pinal County Jail in Arizona, Adelanto County Jail and Santa Ana City Jail in California, and the Northwest Detention Center in Washington State.
The Florence facility is important because an especially large amount of suspected illegal aliens were released from that facility starting in md-February. Last week, Front Page Magazine reported exclusively that Sheriff Paul Babeu, the Sheriff of Pinal County where the Florence facility is located, was denied information about of those released by ICE.
The Florence facility is also important because groups like those with whom the Public Advocate meets regularly have also been complaining about the heavy-handed methods of Sheriff Babeu.
“This announcement and releasing people in this way for me is a confirmation of how many people we are holding in custody that don’t need to be there,” said Lindsey Marshall, executive director of the Florence Immigrant Rights and Refugee Project, for a story on the web site Frontera’s Desk on February 27, 2013.
Speaking with Arizona Star Net, Marshall also echoed this idea that there were plenty of non-violent offenders that could be released from the Florence facility. “The overwhelming majority of the people we work with have ties to the U.S.; they have children here, they have homes here, they have jobs here, and they will show up at court,” she said.
Much of the pressure from groups like Marshall’s stems from the fact that, for years, the Obama administration has boasted that they’ve been able to increase deportation numbers by ten percent over the Bush administration. In fact, for years, groups headed by the likes of La Raza have complained that heavy-handed enforcement of an ICE program called Secure Communities has been the primary cause for these numbers and this has led to too many apprehensions, incarcerations and deportations of what these groups believe are otherwise law abiding citizens.
Secure Communities was first created in 2008, but its use has exploded under the Obama administration. Secure Communities is supposed to be a data sharing program. As soon as someone is arrested in any participating county, that person’s information is immediately shared with ICE and others. This can trigger an investigation by ICE.
Left-wing groups have complained that overzealous county sheriffs like Sheriff Babeu have abused Secure Communities by arresting people they suspect, but have no proof, are in the country illegally for minor traffic violations in order to get them into the system to trigger an immigration investigation.
In fact, in 2011, Sheriff Joe Arpaio accounted for some of the best numbers in the country for triggering successful Secure Communities investigations.
Meanwhile, tough new anti-illegal immigration laws like those in Arizona (making the Florence facility important for yet another reason), South Carolina, and Alabama have given these same groups an extra layer of complaint on the issue, especially in those localities. For instance, the ACLU complained in the Hill in 2011 that Alabama’s law would be used to racially profile when it was combined with Secure Communities.
Neither the ICE Public Advocate nor any of the groups that hosted any of the “roundtables” would answer FrontPage Magazine directly whether or not they advocated in these meetings to the Obama administration the mass release of thousands held in ICE facilities as is currently being implemented. While it’s not entirely clear what, if any, influence these meetings had on public policy, there is more than enough evidence to demand full disclosure.
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