Deportation by Obama's ICE is the Bite Behind SB1070's Bark
Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Raul Grijalva understand that the Arizona GOP is the easy target for anger about Arizona's new anti-immigrant law, SB1070, but not the most productive one. That would be President Obama, who remains mostly absent from the debate about immigration reform while his ICE foot soldiers carry out the deportation of each and every undocumented immigrant racially profiled by Arizona law enforcement.
While SB1070 has put immigration policy back in the national spotlight for the first time since 2007 and drawn the condemnation of President Obama, his Secure Communities initiative allows and encourages racial profiling to continue under the radar throughout the United States. Secure Communities facilitates information-sharing between ICE and local law enforcement in adopting jurisdictions whenever an arrest takes place, regardless of the nature of the crime or whether it ultimately results in a conviction. While all eyes are on Arizona, local police in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Bensalem, and all across the state of Pennsylvania are carrying out their campaign of quiet terror against the immigrant community. They continue to make race-based police stops, knowing that an arrest on any pretext can lead to deportation. Some don't even bother to make arrests, illegally stopping drivers based on appearance and calling ICE directly. These types of abuses are happening throughout the country.
Nevertheless, SB1070 would make things much worse, giving Arizona law enforcement express permission to make race-based police stops, and giving nativist citizens the right to sue law enforcement agencies if they weren't engaging in enough racial profiling. If President Obama truly opposes SB1070 and wishes to uphold Constitutional principles, there is a simple solution. He could instruct ICE, under established principles of prosecutorial discretion, to withhold prosecution of any individual turned over by Arizona law enforcement after SB1070 takes effect. This would effectively gut the law, removing deportation as the expected consequence of an arrest by local law enforcement.
That is why Rep. Grijalva made this comment on Tuesday:
You know, immigration is a federal law, and if we are asking the President for him not to cooperate in the implementation of this law through Homeland Security, through Border Patrol, through detention, and a non-cooperative stance by the United States government and the federal agencies, would render much of this legislation moot and ineffective.
And why Rep. Gutierrez said this:
"When the president," explained Gutierrez, "said to us it is because we have not enacted comprehensive immigration reform that we give an excuse to people in Arizona to pass 1070. Let me just say, every time the federal government said that you can carry out [a 287(g)] extension, you gave Arizona an excuse to do 1070."
287(g) is a program enabling local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement under the training and supervision of ICE, and Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County is the prime example of abuse of the program that has gone largely unchecked by the Obama administration.
Close observers of immigration policy like Luis Gutierrez and Raul Grijalva know that President Obama, when asked to choose between upholding civil liberties and ramping up enforcement, has chosen the latter every time. So before the immigrant rights community gives the president another free pass because he said some unkind words about SB1070, we should take another look at the actions behind the rhetoric and understand that without ICE waiting in the wings to deport every undocumented person who is racially profiled in Arizona, SB1070 would be all bark and no bite.
[Image: Rep. Gutierrez in Arizona, Phoenix NewTimes]