Immigration and the Texas Presidential Debate

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The pro-migrant blogosphere is buzzing about the presidential debates last night.  Culture Kitchen, Latina Lista, and the ImmigrationProf Blog all have commentary.  Everyone seems to be pretty happy about Clinton's and Obama's stance on immigration last night.  I'm going to rain on the parade. 


There were a lot of positives to the stances of Obama and Clinton.  I will paste the part of the transcript where they discussed immigration below. 

They support a path to citizenship.  Clinton said she'd consider stopping the raids.  Obama talked about the increase in hate crimes against Latinos due to the harsh rhetoric employed against migrants.  They both came out in support of increasing opportunities for migrant in Mexico, which gets at the root of the problem.  They took reasonable stances on the issue of language.  But there was one policy espoused that was deeply flawed.

If they had a committed a crime in our country or the country they came from, then they should be deported.
Hillary Clinton - Democrat Debate (21 February 2008)

Obama hasn't come out explicitly and said this, but in his immigration fact sheet, he says migrants "otherwise playing by the rules" should get a path to citizenship, implying those that don't should be deported.

At first glance this seems pretty reasonable.  Criminal undocumented migrants should be deported, period.  It's pretty hard to argue against that with the average U.S. citizen.  I wouldn't dare advocate that undocumented criminal migrants shouldn't be deported, but it is important that the U.S. is smart about this. 

The U.S. hasn't been smart about this in the past and it has hurt everybody, including U.S. citizens.  When the U.S. expedited deportation proceedings in the 1990s to tackle undocumented criminals, it didn't reduce undocumented criminals it only succeeded in spreading them around the entire hemisphere and organizing them transnationally.

Now, gangs that were once relegated to neighborhoods in Los Angeles, like Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18, have been converted into "transnational criminal hydras".  Not only do these gangs wreak havoc on U.S. citizens, they make conditions in the countries migrants come from worse, forcing even more migrants to leave. 

Again, I'm not saying the U.S. should keep undocumented criminals within it's borders, but the U.S. should do a better job of communicating with receiving countries and helping them assimilate these undocumented criminals in a way that doesn't make the problem worse.

If we just allow Clinton and Obama to deport undocumented criminals without holding their feet to the fire about specifics, it's going to beat us in the long run.

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2 Comments

yave begnet said:

Also, it's important to be clear about what "undocumented criminals" means. Right now, it includes the following:

--someone who shoplifted a candy bar (petty theft is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, which can lead to deportation in some cases, even for longtime permanent residents)

--someone convicted of possession--not sale--of 31 grams of pot, or someone convicted more than once of possession of any amount of pot

--a teenager who has sex with his/her teenage girlfriend or boyfriend

--a 75 year old black man who was charged and convicted of crimes in his youth when the criminal justice system didn't even attempt to be race-neutral, who has not been arrested for 40 years and has a longtime U.S. citizen wife and U.S. citizen children and grandchildren

Many people might not expect that the types of cases above are included in the "criminal alien" statistics ICE touts to rally public support for its harsh tactics. These are some of the people ICE is deporting, these are the people the restrictionists are using to whip up fear to support immigration raids.

These are the people Clinton is talking about when she says "no legal process". These are precisely the people who need due process of law the most, those who have no voice in the political process and who are most at risk of being railroaded unjustly and permanently excluded from the country.

Once someone is labeled a "criminal alien," it's a stigma that is hard to remove, and one politicians will shy away from. I wish Obama would be more clear about where he stands on this issue. But I think this:

Obama hasn't come out explicitly and said this, but in his immigration fact sheet, he says migrants "otherwise playing by the rules" should get a path to citizenship, implying those that don't should be deported.

... is much preferable to Clinton's "no legal process" stark line in the sand. At least Obama isn't trying to make political capital out of the suffering of the defenseless and stigmatized.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for adding the necessary nuance to my post, yave. I too agree that Hillary's positions have been more anti-migrant than Obama's and perhaps in this specific case it is true to. I personally would rather have a position, though, than none at all, because we both know migrants are usually the first people to be sold out when the heat comes.

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