Common Sense Missing From Obama Admin Immigration Reviews

By Matias Ramos,

Now that the electronic shackle is off, it’s really nice not having to listen to the eerie computer-voice commands regularly broadcast from its plastic speaker. [Matias Ramos, right, shows the ankle monitoring device he had to wear for ten days. Photo by Michael Vanacore.]

For 10 miserable days, I had to wear a thick rubber and plastic cuff around my ankle for 24/7 GPS monitoring. Every few hours, it would bark out strange comments and commands until I pressed a button to make it stop. Some were clear: “Call your officer.” “Recharge the battery.” But it also would sometimes declare “Leaving your master inclusion zone.”

What does that even mean? Beats me. But then, the fact that I had been shackled by an employee of a private company with a lucrative Department of Homeland Security contract made no sense either.

On the other hand, now I get what it really means to experience abusive government intrusion into your life. And I know firsthand that the Obama administration isn’t yet upholding its pledge to exercise some common sense when it comes to deciding whether a specific deportation case is a priority.

Under a new policy instituted in August, immigration agents and judges are supposed to use more discretion when deciding whether to deport someone. They’re supposed to weigh such factors as how long the person has lived in the United States, as well as whether he or she has obtained or is pursuing a college degree, or has dependents who are citizens. This new directive was supposed to free the government to focus on deporting people deemed to be criminals or national security threats.

As a college-educated, 25-year-old undocumented immigrant with an active deportation case and no criminal record, I welcomed this change — until I learned the hard way that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field offices are actually becoming even more ruthless than before.

On September 13, less than a month after President Barack Obama announced this new initiative, and a dozen years after I arrived in the United States, I was placed on a supervision-intensive program run by a private company called BI Inc.

Under this program, a BI goon shackled me with a GPS-enabled monitoring device on my ankle that I’d have to wear at all times, even in the shower. Another called me a week later, telling me I should buy a plane ticket in two weeks. BI agents were free to make unannounced visits to my home, and my girlfriend and I had no right to refuse them entry. Nor was I allowed to leave the Washington, DC area.

Thanks to a petition drive by friends, colleagues, and supporters, ICE eventually relented and had the shackle removed. But thousands of other undocumented immigrants aren’t so lucky.

The experience was shocking and upsetting. But as a veteran immigrant rights activist living in our nation’s capital, I was no stranger to the facts about the massive and inhumane deportation system that has defined the Obama years when it comes to immigration policy. More than a million people have been shipped out over the last three years, putting the Obama administration on track to potentially deport more people in one term than Bush administration did in two.

I am an undocumented American. I came to this country with my parents at the age of 13, and after a dozen years of legal limbo, my attachment to this country is undeniable. I learned English as a teenager reading Catcher in the Rye, watching World Wrestling Entertainment, and enjoying Top 40 hits. But to the government contractor that suddenly became charged with my case, I was apparently just fodder for a profiteering scheme.

When Obama addressed Latino voters at the National Council of La Raza in July, he said he needed a “dance partner” to fix the nation’s immigration failures and that he couldn’t act alone. The new policy, announced in a letter from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to Sen. Dick Durbin, seemed to be playing a more danceable tune.

After my ordeal, I have some advice for Obama. One thing he could do to show that he wants the nation’s largest minority group to embrace him is to cancel the Bush-era contracts with unethical and profiteering companies like BI. Then he should tell immigration authorities to actually follow his new, common-sense approach.

Matias Ramos, the Institute for Policy Studies’ Carol Jean and Edward F. Newman fellow, is a formerly undocumented student and a co-founder of the United We Dream Network. More than 6,000 people have signed a petition calling on ICE to close his case.

Subscribe today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Must Read

U.S. citizen detained overnight by ICE – they thought he was undocumented

Victor Landa July 6, 2017

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco (1.5 minute read)  This is startling news. Up until last night at a dinner conversation I believed that the idea that an American citizen would be […]

Willie Velásquez documentary is a lesson for Latinos on the importance of voting

NewsTaco May 9, 2017

*Why you should read this: Because today is Willie Velasquez day and a quick search of his name turned up no news stories. This piece, by Mercedes Olivera, is from […]

DIECIOCHO Podcast: Texas Rep. Rafael Anchia – Trump, Gerrymandering and Money

NewsTaco June 8, 2017

By Victor Landa, NewsTaco (1 minute read, 34 minute listen)  It’s safe to say that the just-ended Texas legislative session was the most acrimonious in memory. We can talk for […]

Pence will host White House Cinco de Mayo party

NewsTaco May 4, 2017

*Why you should read this: Because there’ll be no Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House (I know, big deal – we’ll be spared the taco-bowl). VL By Hadas […]

Ted Cruz gets an earful in McAllen for July 4

Victor Landa July 5, 2017

*I’m posting this because it was mostly Latinos, organizing, protesting, making their voices heard. Everyone needs to know that Latinos in deep South Texas are standing up. VL By Patrick […]

Vietnam War veteran fears he could be deported

Victor Landa July 7, 2017

*This Vietnam veteran, born in Mexico, was awarded two Purple Hearts and given U.S. citizenship after his service. He’s misplaced his documents and after paying $345 the government wants more […]

Henry Cisneros: Why Can’t Americans See Latinos Are Country’s ‘Saving Grace’?

Victor Landa

*Good question. I think it’s because we’re not the ones telling our story. We need to fight for our narrative. VL By Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News (1.5 minute read)  SAN […]

Castro will not run for U.S. Senate

NewsTaco May 1, 2017

By Victor Laneda, NewsTaco (i.5 minute read)    Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) says he will not be running for the U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz. Castro had promised to make […]