Mixed Messages from ICE on Immigration Enforcement

By Kausha Luna on August 6, 2015

Univision, the most-watched network in July, broadcast a report yesterday on ICE's new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP).

The Univision segment (in Spanish) opens with the anchor's introduction to ICE’s new alert to immigrants on the dangers of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the newscaster, ICE’s forewarning resulted from a slight increase in arrests at the border.

The segment then moves on to ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro. In Spanish, she relays a warning to immigrants: "immigration laws, here, have not changed." As Montenegro continues, her message becomes clear: ICE wants to ensure that prospective illegal immigrants know it is not loosening enforcement efforts and they will suffer the consequences of breaking the law. The warning goes further as Montenegro cautions her audience to be wary of the lies told by "coyotes" (the colloquial term for individuals smuggling aliens into the U.S.). Montenegro reiterates that the law applies to all: families, women, and children.

Unfortunately, ICE's message is contradicted by ICE’s actions in implementing PEP, a program that focuses almost exclusively on criminal aliens – a distinction Montenegro failed to mention and was only briefly mentioned by the reporter. In reality, PEP doesn't even do that very well; it "further scales back immigration enforcement by ICE," according to the Center's Jessica Vaughan, "and it explicitly facilitates sanctuary jurisdictions in obstructing ICE efforts to take custody of criminal aliens."

At best, the segment painted a muddled image of U.S. immigration policy, sending the message that the United States itself is unclear about what is lawful and what is not.