Conyers rips deportations

The Detroit News:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grassroots groups, clergy and lawmakers join in fight against removal of undocumented immigrants.

Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

DETROIT — More than 1,200 people, including three members of Congress, Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. and a dozen members of the clergy supported calls for immigration reform Friday, with some saying that escalated enforcement against illegal residents is shattering families and neighborhoods across Metro Detroit.

“We have Immigration and Customs Enforcement people who are beating up people and arresting people for no good reason,” said Congressman John Conyers, D-Detroit, the chairman of House Committee on the Judiciary. “We ought to take them out and check them out, right off the bat. And guess what? That is exactly what I am going to do in hearings beginning on Wednesday.”

The event, at the Greater Apostolic Faith Temple, is part of a 20-city tour organized by the members of Congress, grassroots organizations and a battery of faith groups to document the harm they say is caused by the failure of immigration reform and the coincident, increased enforcement.

Deportations from Metro Detroit increased by 45 percent in the year ending last September and are on another record-setting pace this year, federal officials say. They say they are responding to demands for increased enforcement, which occurred after the failed congressional debate over immigration reform in 2005.

Federal law enforcement officials were not immediately available for comment late Friday, but in the past they have said their raids are intended to preserve national security and enforce the laws.

Many of those in attendance Friday night say they realize the necessity of securing the country, but that the raids and escalating arrests only emphasize the need for reform. They signed a petition to be delivered to President Obama calling the raids and deportations misguided, and urging him to move quickly on reform.

“This has traumatized my children,” said Maria Martinez, of Detroit, whose husband was arrested last year and deported, years after entering the country illegally. “They are still scared of men in uniforms and cry for their father every night.”

You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or