Jacqueline Stevens on the ruse and sometimes illegal operations of immigration agents

Jacqueline Stevens
Jacqueline Stevens, author of States Without Nations: Citizenship for Mortals, has been a frequent guest on various programs in connection to her recent article in The Nation exposing the detention of longtime U.S. residents in unlisted buildings by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).

Stevens reveals that ICE is holding people in 186 unlisted and unmarked spaces known as sub-field offices. Many of the offices are hidden in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants. The Nation is also reporting that ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians and rely on other illegal tricks to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. According the report in The Nation, they are mainly used to house individuals in transfer and are not subject to the basic standards applied to ICE detainees.

Here is her interview with Leonard Lopate:

Stevens also appeared on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. (Click here to watch the video.)

Below is Stevens’s answer about ICE agents impersonating Mormon missionaries and insurance agent edited from the transcript of the interview with Democracy Now!:

JACQUELINE STEVENS: One consequence of the detention operations and the removal operations moving away from these big workplace raids—that is something that the Obama administration has dedicated itself to—has been more surreptitious operations. These had been going on under the Bush administration, as well, but there’s an impression that there’s been a shift to these more surreptitious operations for targeting people.

And among the operations that I encountered, and ICE calls these “ruse operations”—and just to be clear, under our law, ruse operations, for the most part, are legal. It is legal for federal agents to impersonate civilians for the purpose of tricking people who they suspect have arrest warrants and so forth in obtaining their custody.

It is not legal for federal agents to impersonate religious workers. And a spokesperson for the ACLU explained why, and I quote her in the article, but it’s a pretty obvious principle. If religious workers are suspected of being federal agents, then that makes it very difficult for them to fulfill their duties. If it’s part of the Mormon practice to proselytize and a community is suspecting Mormons of being federal agents, then they’ll be hostile to them. And that will constrict their ability to practice their religion. So that is one operation that ICE has been reported as doing.

The federal government’s response to this was really shocking to me. I sent them a question, and I said, “Is it consistent with ICE policy for ICE agents to impersonate religious workers?” And I would have expected a flat-out “no.” But instead, they explained exactly why and how it was consistent for ICE agents to impersonate religious workers.

Goodman and Stevens also discussed if things have changed during the Obama administration:

AMY GOODMAN: Has policy under Obama improved over policy over President Bush?

JACQUELINE STEVENS: I wish I could say yes. I think that there are a lot of people who are hopeful, and there’s some lip service to making certain changes on the ground. I haven’t seen any positive changes overall, that would suggest that there’s—

AMY GOODMAN: Has it become worse?

JACQUELINE STEVENS: I think in some respects. The increase in these kinds of operations would suggest that that’s worse, because as different people have observed, that drives this activity underground. It makes it less available publicly for people to scrutinize what they’re doing.

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