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ICE names a public advocate: Is it PR or real reform?

Morton

Federal immigration officials are taking another step toward fulfilling a pledge to overhaul the nation's troubled detention system. On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that Andrew Lorenzen-Strait will serve as the agency's first public advocate.

Lorenzen-Strait said in a blog posted on the Department of Homeland Security's site that his job will be to serve as "a point of contact for individuals, including those in immigration proceedings, NGOs, and other community and advocacy groups, who have concerns, questions, recommendations or important issues they would like to raise."

Immigration officials vowed in 2010 to usher in reforms to the detention system after reports of abuse and deaths surfaced. Since then, ICE has adopted some changes, improving medical care and creating a hot-line that detainees -- including those who claim they are U.S. citizens -- can call.

Lorenzen-Strait joined the agency in 2008 and is familiar with its past troubles, including accusations that U.S. citizens were wrongly detained. The real question, however, isn't whether he understands how ICE works but how much of a role he can have in improving those problems brought to his attention.

No doubt some will suggest the new position is simply an attempt by the Obama administration to placate critics who accuse the president of backpedaling on his campaign promise to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Whether it is a public relations ploy remains to be seen. The agency does, however, deserve credit for at least following through with promised reforms.

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--Sandra Hernandez

Photo: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John Morton speaks during a news conference, attended by Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., left, at the Justice Department in Washington in 2010. Credit: Luis M. Alvarez / Associated Press

 

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