Friday, January 26, 2007
A relatively new tactic in immigration enforcement -- and one that is particularly aimed at stopping human smuggling -- has been a "follow the money" strategy focusing on wire transfers. Relying on damming warrants, prosecutors have tried to stop the transfer of money intended as payments to smugglers. But the breadth of the warrants, and their impact on innocent people, have resulted in complaints about the programs and legal challenges. John Pomfret writes about the issue in today's Washington Post. Pomfret writes:
People across the country, prosecutors said, were sending money to [a] little Western Union shop in Douglas[, Arizona] -- and scores others like it in Arizona -- to pay smugglers to sneak illegal immigrants into the United States.
To fight back, Attorney General Terry Goddard employed a controversial technique known as a damming warrant to seize $17 million in money transfers into hundreds of Western Union locations in Arizona, prosecute scores of immigrant smugglers and deport hundreds of people in a program he marvels at because of its "elegant simplicity."
When the AG attempted to extend the program to block "all Western Union money transfers of $500 and above from 26 states with a significant population of illegal immigrants to a group of Western Union outlets in the northern Mexican state of Sonora," Western Union sued, claiming the warrant was overbroad. They won. On January 9, 2007, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth L. Fields quashed the warrant, ruling that it was "unconstitutional as applied under the Commerce Clause, Foreign Commerce Clause, Due Process Clause and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution."
The full Washington Post story is here.