More than 8,000 people have been mistakenly tagged for immigration violations as a result of the Bush administration’s entering the names of thousands of immigrants in a national crime database meant to help apprehend terrorism suspects, contends the Migration Policy Institute. A study by the institute says that the National Crime Information Center was wrong in 42 percent of the cases in which it identified immigrants stopped by the local police as being wanted by domestic security officials.
Many immigration violations, like overstaying a visa, are civil infractions, not criminal offenses typically handled by the police. A spokesman for the U.S. Homeland Security Department said the results showed that the process was working correctly, allowing local police to confirm quickly whether an immigrant is actually wanted by the Department of Homeland Security. Law Prof. Michael Wishnie of New York University, an author of the report, said the statistics raised questions about the accuracy of the immigration data in the database. He is concerned that a majority of immigrants affected by the program seemed to be Hispanics who had violated civil immigration laws.