UK Immigration Officials Get ICE-y; Scrape Phone Data To Ring Up An Immigrant For Working Too Many Hours

from the finding-a-paying-home-for-bigots dept

We’ve all seen how immigration agencies (but especially ICE) shifted away from enforcement that mattered (removing the worst of worst) to engaging in nothing more than as much removal as possible under Trump. There’s a new Commander-in-Chief in town, but that doesn’t mean ICE is just going to stop being routinely terrible.

But this isn’t just a USA-centric problem. Other countries seem equally unwilling to further encourage the melting pots that made them great. Far too many have settled on the political position that immigrants are bad, despite all evidence otherwise.

The UK government is now in the thrall of the so-called Conservative Party. The resignation of Boris Johnson (presumably related to his multiple public blunders, if not his inability to source a proper haircut) gave way (briefly, as it ended today) to Liz Truss, a Johnson protégé (one who lost the public vote but still won the appointment [sound familiar?]), who appears to believe exiting the European Union is the best thing for her career, but only now that she’s decided to follow in Johnson’s windblown footsteps. The government she lead believes immigration is a net loss to British society.

If it’s a net loss, it’s time to start scoring some wins, no matter how unearned. That’s what the UK Home Office believes. And if that means breaking the law and sending immigration officers to raid homes over (gasp!) someone providing too much care to elderly patients, so be it.

That is the attitude at the Home Office, as reported by The Ferret. Here’s how immigration things are going in the British Empire in the current era:

[T]his week Home Secretary Suella Braverman told a Conservative party fringe meeting that as part of the aim to reduce net migration “we have got to definitely substantially reduce the number of students, the number of work visas and in particular the number of dependents on those sorts of visas”.

She did not give any reason for doing this. Well, she did, but they’re not credible reasons. Instead, this determination was based solely on the statements of previous Prime Ministers who didn’t care too much for recent (and darker-skinned) additions to UK society:

“In the 90s it was in the tens of thousands under Mrs Thatcher – net migration – and David Cameron famously said tens of thousands, no ifs no buts.

“So that would be my ultimate aspiration but we’ve got to take it slowly and we’ve got to go incrementally.”

Of course, Braverman also resigned yesterday.

Still, when the only goal is to hit a net amount, bullshit like this starts to happen:

Balan, who paid more than £12,000 in fees to study for a masters at Sheffield Hallam University, insists he has done nothing wrong and is looking to appeal the decision.

He and his wife were sleeping in the bedroom of the shared house where they were living in Stoke-on-Trent when immigration officers – who were carrying out an enforcement raid – forced their way in at 6am.

Though the couple were not suspected of having broken any immigration laws and their names were not those sought by enforcement officers, Bahan says they forced him to hand over his phone, passport and ID card. They demanded his passcode and work address.

After accessing the geolocation – or GPS –  function on his phone they claimed he had been at the care home where he worked for more than his visa permitted. 

That was one issue: the immigration officers — after demanding (possibly illegal) access to his phone — decided this was grounds for removal from the country. Balan’s visa limited him to 20 hours. The location data accessed by immigration officers showed he was at the care home for twenty-two hours. Balan produced check stubs showing only 20 hours of work and explained he had spent two unpaid hours there. That didn’t matter to the officers, who detaining Balan and his wife for 24 hours before turning them over to one of the country’s “Immigration Removal Centres.”

Not only was this search potentially a violation of law (immigration officers must have something approaching probable cause to search devices), it did nothing more than punish an immigrant for being too helpful to people in need of care. In addition, the paperwork handed to Balan during the search suggests immigration officers were actually looking for someone else — a previous resident of the house.

Once again, when the goal to meet is removals, it apparently doesn’t matter for what reason or even if immigration officers have the right person. From what’s detailed here, it appears officers raided a home, found the wrong people, and decided because they had browner skin they could be converted into the right people with some exploratory (but unjustified) device searches. When the desire is to eject people, it really doesn’t matter why. It just matters that the ejection happens.

As the article points out, there are several rules and laws that govern device searches like these. And while immigration officials may claim Balan consented to a search, the open question is how this so-called “consent” was achieved. An early morning raid coupled with deportation threats leans heavily on the side of coercion.

But we’ll have to wait to see how this all plays out. Balan is challenging the search and the removal order. Unfortunately, courts in the UK (much like courts in the US) tend to give law enforcement officers (especially those at the federal level) far too much leeway when it comes to allegations of rights violations. And when you’re only in a country at the pleasure (however temporary) of another government, your rights may not matter at all.

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Comments on “UK Immigration Officials Get ICE-y; Scrape Phone Data To Ring Up An Immigrant For Working Too Many Hours”

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PaulT (profile) says:


I wish… if they were eating the clowns there’s be a lot less names in government I was worried about.

I suspect the “ringmaster” is still the old Eton old boy network who always run things. Their distraction with Truss lasted less time than they wanted perhaps, but I think they’ll be back in charge one way or another soon.

Who knows, maybe they’ll even give the public the illusion of a choice this time around. In the meantime, rounding up immigrants for their media outlets to crow about is on brand, even if it’s obviously unfair. The Mail and Express won’t be writing stories about a student paying £12,000 in fees and not suspected of otherwise breaking laws being mistreated, but they’ll certainly be getting the story of a brown man being deported after taking someone’s job in the runup to the election if it happens…

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