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New York INS Office May Have Engaged in Racial Profiling
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

According to INS files recently obtained by the New York Times, racial profiling of Hispanics led to several immigration raids. A review of 37 raids over the past three years shows that in most of the raids, the factors used to justify the raids included skin color, foreign accents and speaking in Spanish, and clothes “not typical of North America.” The use of appearance may be a factor in calling for a raid, but its use alone and without any other basis for suspicion is unconstitutional discrimination.

The files reviewed by the New York Times represent 20 percent of the worksite raids conducted by the New York INS district between January 1997 and June 1999. The INS provided the files to a garment workers’ union as part of a settlement, and the union passed them on to the Times.

As the US grows more diverse, racial profiling is becoming a significant problem in law enforcement. The problem is particularly acute for immigrants, who, even if here legally, are under no obligation to speak English or to dress “American.” The use of simple factors like language and ethnicity lead to the arrest of legal immigrants who then face a tremendous ordeal in proving their legal status.

A number of lawsuits have been filed across the US claiming that law enforcement officials are targeting Hispanics for questioning and arrest, often demanding information about their immigration status. Some courts have ruled that police officers who do this are violating the law. However, it is generally accepted that INS agents can stop people to question them about their status, especially near the border, and that in making the stop, a person’s ethnicity can be a factor.

INS guidelines stress that whether a person is in the US legally cannot be determined solely by appearance or language, and that there must be a reasonable suspicion for questioning. The New York Times review, however, seems to indicate that agents may not always follow these guidelines. During the period covered by the review, 96 percent of those arrested were Hispanic. This is a far greater percentage than Hispanics, legal or undocumented, represent in the area’s overall population. The possibility that racial profiling was used is increased by the fact that most of the raids were conducted in garment factories, where about half of the employees are Asian. Only two Chinese nationals were arrested in raids during the period examined.


About The Authors

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defender’s office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com


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