Hernán Rozemberg - Express-News
With eight down and 456,992 to go, immigration agents called it quits.
Jim Hayes, in charge of detention and deportation for ICE, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the closed-minded manner with which immigrants and their advocates reacted to the idea, never willing to give it a chance.
“We're going to enforce immigration law whether it's convenient for people or not,” said Hayes, who refused to name the groups that asked for its implementation. “Obviously, certain groups have shown they don't want our laws enforced, as mandated by Congress.”
Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said the agency knew the program would never work because thousands of unauthorized immigrants have already settled down — paying taxes, owning homes and cars, raising families — and wouldn't simply pack up and go.
“ICE should spend its time finding and deporting human and drug traffickers and leave working immigrants alone,” said Hoyt, based in Chicago — where two people, an Indian couple, turned themselves in.
Another advocate admitted that he and his colleagues could have used better language when criticizing the program, but the point still stands: The government's immigration policy has dramatically strayed since the White House failed to push Congress to overhaul the current system.
Voluntarily or not, fugitive illegal immigrants have their days counted, said Hayes, noting that regular fugitive round-ups continued during Operation Scheduled Departure.
Plus, added Hayes, the 95 teams set up across the country — each with eight agents tasked solely with tracking down fugitive immigrants — will grow to 104 by next month thanks to its $218 million budget.
It was even financially beneficial, he said. The eight takers saved the government the $54,000 it would have cost to detain them, more than offsetting the program's $41,000 price tag.
That's not counting the 136 calls that the agency received though a hotline set up for the program, Hayes said.