An internal email from a Department of Homeland Security lawyer is raising questions about the use of ethnic profiling by local police against immigrants, despite an Obama administration effort to stop using the justice system to round up low-level suspects for deportation, reports the Los Angeles Times. Two Honduran men waiting for a ride to their construction job were detained by Louisiana police in May on loitering charges because they looked Latino, said a Sept. 21 Homeland Security email that was released inadvertently and obtained by the Times. “The only basis for the arrest seems to have been to give Border Patrol an opportunity to run an immigration investigation,” wrote Megan Mack, head of the Homeland Security Department's civil rights office. “This is not a practice the department wishes to endorse or facilitate.” Mack said the men posed no threat and should be released.
The case highlights the concern among senior Homeland Security leaders that local police are making arrests based on appearance and then calling immigration agents to check on a detainee's status. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials did not follow Mack's recommendation and say they are still planning to deport the two men, Jose Adan Fugon-Cano and Gustavo Barahona-Sanchez. Because both men had been removed from the U.S. before, they are still priorities for deportation under the department's guidelines, said ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. Lawyers for the men say, the case shows how the agency is still using arrests by local police to round up low-level offenders in the country illegally, in spite of a new plan to target only priority cases. Lawyers say the reports of these internal investigations rarely come to light.