Cross post from HatCityBLOG
An undocumented Florida woman who helped her sister report domestic violence now faces an order of deportation from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even though her lawyers say she never should have been detected by ICE agents in the first place.
The woman, Rita Cote, 25, is married to a U.S. citizen and has four children, all of them citizens. She has no criminal record. But when police arrived to respond to the domestic-violence call on Feb. 16, 2009, law enforcement instead took Cote into custody, detained her for a week and handed her over to ICE.
Cote now faces deportation at any time to her native Honduras, which she fled as a child in 1998 to escape Hurricane Mitch and its aftermath. If deported, she could be separated from her husband and children for up to a decade.
While law-enforcement officials seek to work closely with their communities to prevent or solve crimes, immigrant-rights advocates say cases like Cote’s hurt that cause. The threat of deportation can have a chilling effect on the willingness of undocumented immigrants to turn to the police, they argue, even in similar cases of violent crime, leaving areas heavily populated by illegal immigrants more dangerous and lawless.
ICE officials say their enforcement priorities first target illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes, but in practice, the agency more often rounds up those whose only crime is being in the country without documentation. The Obama administration has set a record for deportations of immigrants without a criminal record — expelling more such people than those with a criminal record, although deportation of criminals has also increased.
In 2009, Cote appeared on ICE’s radar once again following the 911 call on behalf of her sister, who does not speak English. She was still present when police responded to the call. At that point, ACLU lawyers say the responding police officers swayed from normal protocol and required everyone at the scene to present identification. According to ACLU lawyer Glenn Katon, the police took Cote to jail after demanding that she show her passport rather than another photo I.D., which had her married name.
The ACLU lawsuit contends that asking Cote for an I.D. — and taking it to the level of demanding a passport — was a matter of racial profiling by the police and claims police and the county had no authority to detain her. “I find that hard to believe that if this was a white family and someone got into a fight at a party, they’d ask everyone for I.D.,” Katon told HuffPost.
For those who rallied against the 287g program in Danbury, Cote’s case is not a surprise since this case one of the reasons immigrant rights supporters spoke out against the program back in 2008.
The Cote situation is not shocking nor is it that many of the promises made by those on the council who voted in favor of the program never materialized (i.e., monthly ICE ACCESS reports from DanburyPD, program would only be used for serious criminals, lack of transparency in regards to the cost of maintaining the program in the first place, etc).
When it comes to Danbury, the following question still goes unanswered. When will the media (who should know better) stop giving Boughton a free pass on his immigration record and start asking serious questions about the broken promises and misleading claims he and his administration made about the ICE ACCESS program…as well as the Danbury 11 case?