Recently in Deportation Category
With his announcement Saturday morning that he would delay any administrative reform measures on immigration until after the 2014 midterm elections, President Obama has once again refused to stop or slow the mass deportations which have become the hallmark of his administration. He and his supporters claim he will take action after the elections. I don't know why anyone would believe that at this point. Whatever pressure the president is facing now to delay action would only increase were the Democrats to lose the Senate, as is now predicted by most observers. If Obama's poll numbers would crater if he implemented administrative reforms, dragging down the entire party, Democrats in Congress could persuade him to continue forestalling reforms after the elections. There will always be something more urgent on the president's agenda, some new reason to excuse another broken promise in November.
After the 2012 general election, I had begun to subscribe to the Democrats' prediction that demographic changes in the electorate would inevitably lead to broad legalization relatively soon. Given the demands of the two-year election cycle, House Republicans might succumb to the temptation to demagogue immigrants. But more reasonable voices in the GOP would prevail as the party looked ahead to 2016 and the prospect of failing to win the White House and the Senate. I read with interest Tim Dickinson's analysis of Karl Rove's political strategy in 2010 of winning state legislatures in order to reshape House districts more favorably for Republicans. Dickinson and others predicted that the strategy of spreading GOP voters among a larger number of districts--turning more districts red, but a lighter shade of red--would eventually backfire as the proportion of Democratic voters grew and turned the districts blue again. However, Nate Cohn this weekend presented a rebuttal to this theory, arguing that the concentration of Democratic voters in urban districts, combined with the increased polarization of the electorate, provides Republicans with a structural advantage in the House that could forestall demographic benefits to Democrats for many years. The influx of refugee children from Central America inflamed xenophobic elements in the GOP and made transparent the flimsiness of the Democrats' commitment to immigrant rights. Immigration policy, which Democrats had believed was a strength, was now seen as a threat to the Democratic policy agenda and control of the Senate.
NOTE: What follows is the limited perspective of one person, a pro-migrant chapringo ally, on the immediate story of what led to President Obama's promise to stop the deportations of 1 million people, last week. Most of the people who could tell this story better than me are already working furiously on next steps. I've written this out because it's a story that needs to be told to better determine next steps, but if I'm missing anything or telling it wrong, please help me tell it right in the comments or through your own posts, which I will happily link to. What follows is a draft that I will continue to modify in an effort to make it better.
"We can exist now in the eyes of the country."
Julio Salgado - Los Angeles Times(16 June 2012)
Wow. I don't think it's possible to overstate the significance of the "Remarks by the President on Immigration," delivered last week. President Obama just promised to "lift the shadow of deportation" for what some estimates suggest is anywhere between 800,000 and 1.4 million young people and also allow them to "apply for work authorization." The internet exploded with the news.
The mainstream media conversation quickly devolved into vapid statements about political process and discussion of the even more inane actions of an incompetent reporter. Beneath that empty noise, a much more interesting conversation is taking place. A movement, led by undocumented immigrants, found a way to bend the will of the most powerful person on Earth and is now furiously debating where to go from here: celebration? implementation? escalation? My co-blogger David Bennion has already doused some of the euphoria with some hard legal analysis of how this is going to play out.
Nowhere, though, have I seen even a basic recounting of what brought us here. From everything I've read, it's as if the President just woke up by himself one day, last week, and all of the sudden decided to "do the right thing, period." Everyone who has followed this closely knows that's not how it happened, but not everyone in the country, much less the world has been following this closely. So, before I even get into the next steps I think it's extremely important that we all try to tell the story of how we got here. What follows is my feeble attempt.
The Fox And The Wolf: The Story So Far
The story of how a subset of unauthorized migrants who used to be fearful and invisible grew to be undocumented, unfraid, and most importantly well-organized enough to move the most powerful person on the planet, last week, is an epic story that continues on. I'm not sure if even the greatest artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers, could do the story justice working at the peak of their powers. I'm not going to even attempt to recount that entire story, myself, but I will try and tell the most recent iteration of it.
Responding to ICE's release of data on prosecutorial discretion as of May 29, 2012, American Immigration Lawyers Association president Eleanor Pelta categorically stated ""The prosecutorial discretion initiative has failed."
Only 1.5% of cases in deportation proceedings under review have been closed so far (4,403 of 288,361). And "closed" is not entirely accurate, any case administratively closed"under the prosecutorial discretion review is technically still pending and can be reopened by ICE at any time for any reason. Of the cases administratively closed, Pelta said, "even those were granted only a temporary reprieve, keeping their lives completely in limbo. That's a very low rate-far less than the percentage that succeed in obtaining relief in court."
Yesterday, Cecilia Muñoz got promoted, and another 1000 people got deported. The Obama administration deports over a thousand people, every day, more than any administration before by many counts. The Obama administration tells us most deportees are criminals, nativists say it's not enough, but the truth is the vast majority of those being deported are noble people, heroes even, who are seeking a better life for themselves and for their families, and who make those they live among better off.
If the idea of over a thousand deportations a day doesn't strike you as cruel, make no mistake, only a violent system can forcibly remove that many people a day. Economic, psychological, spiritual, and physical violence are all involved, from the terror migrant communities live in, to the moment ICE agents bust down the doors to peoples homes, to the horrific conditions in which people are imprisoned, to the shackles and drugs used to force people onto planes. If you've gotten to know just one person caught in our broken immigration system you'll know the violence that these laws are doing to the strangers among us. It's the law, nativists will say, but as the wise have said for as long as imperfect human laws have existed, an unjust law is no law at all.
Increasingly, the Obama administration has made Cecilia Muñoz the face of this violent and unjust system and I say that without condemnation.
We are pleased the Department of Justice report compelled the Department of Homeland Security to take steps today that should have been taken years ago. As the DOJ report implies, DHS was an accomplice in the rights violations caused by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. DHS enabled Sheriff Arpaio to conduct his reign of terror, and expansion of the Maricopa Sheriff's approach led to SB 1070 and to the potential Arizonification of the country.UPDATE: DHS has cut off Arpaio's access to the 287(g) program and to the Secure Communities program, according to Talking Points Memo.
Today, the Department of Justice again acted to clean up the mess caused by failed DHS policies that enlist local police into the business of enforcing unjust immigration laws. It is time for DHS to stop contributing to the civil rights crisis described in the DOJ report and end the programs that made Arpaio's crimes possible.
Chris Newman - National Day Laborer Organizing Network (15 December 2011)
This is huge. It's the first acknowledgement on behalf of the Obama administration that these programs are harmful. Why the Obama administration would role out harmful programs like S-COMM nationwide, that the administration now acknowledges can be abused by nativists like Arpaio, still makes absolutely no sense.
ORIGINAL POST: Almost three full years into the Obama administration's reign, the U.S. Department of Justice has finally issued a report on the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) which is head by one of the worst nativists in the country, Joe Arpaio. The quote that jumped out at me from all the reports coming in was this, buried in Marc Lacey's New York Times article:
The report said that Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped in the sprawling county, which includes Phoenix and its environs, than non-Latino drivers. The expert who conducted the study called it the most egregious racial profiling he has ever seen in this country, said Mr. Perez, the prosecutor.
Marc Lacey - New York Times (15 December 2011)
It looks like the report has some teeth, too. As I understand it, Arpaio has until Jan. 4 to respond, and if he refuses to cooperate fully with federal officials to stop this racism then the DOJ will file a civil lawsuit to force compliance, and Arpaio could lose millions in federal funding.
Gutierrez Calls Changes to "Secure Communities" Program Unacceptable
Recent ICE Changes Erode "Any Semblance of Legitimacy the Program Ever Had," Congressman Writes
(Washington) - Today, Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) sent a letter (pdf) to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton renewing his call to end the "Secure Communities" state and local immigration program and objecting in particular to changes in the program that now make it mandatory for all states and localities, even those who have chosen to opt out. The State of Illinois is one of three states, all with Democratic Governors, that are seeking withdrawal from the program that enlists state and local law enforcement in identifying individuals for deportation. The text of the Congressman's letter is below. URL for this release:
Dear Director Morton:
I have made no secret of the fact that I oppose the Secure Communities state and local immigration program and its rapid expansion because it undermines public safety and has not lived up to its stated goals of identifying and deporting serious criminals rather than non-criminal immigrants. However, the announcement you made last week that the program is now mandatory for all states and localities and that all existing agreements between the federal government and state and local governments are revoked, is simply unacceptable and amounts to little more than reneging on previous commitments for the sake of political expediency.
When Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-4) got arrested last week to protest Barack Obama's one millionth deportation, little attention was paid to the letter Obama wrote to Gutierrez in defense of the increasing hardship Obama has forced on migrant communities. I was able to get a copy of the original letters from Gutierrez's office after the White House leaked it to media outlets seemingly in retaliation for Gutierrez's act of defiance.
I will embed the letter Gutierrez originally sent along with Obama's response, below, but they are linked to in this sentence in case people want to read them before I continue. I will provide a little background, first, but I think Obama's defense shows just how extraordinarily out of touch this administration with the immigrant community.
Most surprising to me was the harsh public comments Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis had for John Morton. Davis is really changing his tune on S-Comm and deserves credit for doing so. Harmon quotes Davis saying Morton was "cavalier," and "dismissive." From what I've heard from folks who've interacted with Morton, that seems pretty accurate.
Part of the reason I'm not as good at blogging as I used to be is not only because I'm spending more of my time off the computer and on the streets, it's also because the amount of pro-migrant information I'm taking in has exponentially increased and it's easy to become overwhelmed. With very little movement happening nationally, though, and the fights returning to the local level where there's really shoddy media coverage, it's important that I we all do our part to produce media that changes the conversation about migration in the U.S. and around the world.
I don't think it's possible to understand the amount of violence that is being done to our communities through the mass detention and deportation machine that the Obama administration has constructed. A single mind just cannot comprehend the amount of damage that 400,000 deportations a year does to families and communities. I'm hoping that by communicating the stories of a tiny fraction of people that are getting deported through the public deportations that people are trying to stop that together we can try and move towards understanding.