AMY TAXIN / Associated Press | August 22, 2008

SANTA ANA, Calif.—U.S. authorities have drawn sharp criticism for showing up at homes before dawn to capture illegal immigrants who have skirted court orders to leave the country.

A three-week pilot program in five cities was intended to show a softer touch by allowing illegal immigrants to surrender. But after getting only eight volunteers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the plan doesn’t work.

ICE is ending its “Scheduled Departure” program when the trial period concludes Friday.

“Quite frankly, I think this proves the only method that works is enforcement,” Jim Hayes, acting director of ICE’s detention and removal operations, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

ICE said it hatched the plan to give illegal immigrants more control over their departure and to quell criticism by immigrant advocates that its enforcement efforts were disruptive to families.

“They want amnesty, they want open borders, and they want a more vulnerable America,” Hayes said.

While immigrant rights activists ridiculed the program, they’re now worried its failure will embolden enforcement.

“My hope is it isn’t going to empower them or fuel their enforcement even further,” immigration lawyer Lisa Ramirez said Thursday.

“We do not believe they were really interested in having people turn themselves in,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, director of community education for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

FULL STORY

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