In a paper published today by the Immigration Policy Center, former Arizona Attorney General and 2010 Democratic candidate for governor Terry Goddard strikes out at the state’s current border enforcement strategies and attempts to lay out what he sees as a superior binational approach to border security.
In criticizing Arizona’s current approach to border enforcement, Goddard writes, “Again and again, symbols trump reality, misinformation buries the truth.” Goddard is referring to recent efforts to build a massive wall, stretching the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border, an effort derided by many as simultaneously impractical and ineffective. Goddard is similarly critical of the federal Secure Communities program, in which local law enforcement is employed to enforce immigration law. He argues that these largely symbolic and rhetorical efforts at securing the border could in fact be making current problems worse.
Goddard’s solutions to solving current problems at the Arizona-Sonora border focus not on undocumented immigrants but rather on what he sees as the larger issue in this region: Mexican drug cartels. He argues that the U.S. and Mexican governments must approach the cartels as business enterprises. In order to disable them, Goddard writes that the countries must work together to stanch the flow of money into these criminals’ hands.
For Goddard, because the Tucson Sector is the primary locus through which people and resources are smuggled back and forth across the border, it is here where any successful effort to abolish border violence must begin. This means that Tucson must serve as a model to the rest of the border region of how effectively securing the border starts not with capturing and deporting undocumented migrants, but with capturing and arresting the criminals that facilitate these individuals’ cross-border movement and propagate the border region’s larger criminal environment.
Deportation is clearly not punishment enough for the Obama administration. Not only has President Obama deported more people in his tenure than in any of his predecessors, his administration is responsible for the most aggressive spike in federal prosecutions of immigration offenses. Now, Latinos are the majority of those who are sent to federal prison for felonies, according to a new report (pdf) from the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
The spike, other numbers show, has been driven in large part by the federal government’s aggressive prosecution of immigration offenses.
Where once people who were caught trying to enter the country without papers were allowed to opt for voluntary removal and kicked back across the border, today the federal government is choosing to file charges against people and incarcerate people before deporting them. It’s a profound enough change in policy that it’s changing the demographics of incarceration rates.
In the first nine months of the year Latinos were 50.3 percent of all those who were sentenced to federal prison for felony convictions. Blacks made up 19.7 percent and whites 26.4 percent. Latinos are just 16 percent of the general population though, according to the Census. This is the first year that Latinos have become the majority of those sent to prison for federal felonies.
The aggressive prosecutions are driven by a failed political strategy, immigration experts say. The Obama administration has stepped up its enforcement efforts with the hopes of encouraging a recalcitrant Congress to take up comprehensive immigration reform. “They seem to be trying to look tougher and tougher on enforcement as a down payment on immigration reform in the future,” said Walter Ewing, senior researcher at the Immigration Policy Center.
On 9-11, three sixth-graders along with their teachers were among the passengers killed on American Flight 77 when terrorists crashed the plane into the Pentagon.
I remember later that month dropping in on a class of sixth-graders at May Street Elementary School here in Worcester to get a sense of how they saw themselves and their lives.
That trek ended up being a heartening experience, because in those students, during what was a bleak moment in this country’s history, I found hope, optimism and a hunger to be neighborly.
“What I have learned from this is that we should help each other,” Suzanna, one of the students, told me.
I can only hope now, 10 years after, that Suzanna and her classmates of that year are hanging on to their hopeful and neighborly sixth-grade badges.
Yet, if some of them have lost faith, I wouldn’t be surprised because the billowing dark clouds of that horrific day are still chasing the good in us, still stirring in us a growing hardness, and a crassness in behavior that is threatening to be the norm.
Although many think it is a good and even a righteous battle, there is hardness in the never-ending and costly war we have launched on terror.
We know of the 3,000 innocent lives that perished in those 9-11 attacks, but how many of us have reflected on, according to some estimates, the almost 1 million U.S., Afghan, Iraqi and coalition troops and civilians who have been killed over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?
We talked about ending these wars, but primarily the debate seems to be over the amount of money we will save, and not the number of lives.
Although many think it is necessary, there is hardness in how we engage one another.
In the days leading up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I walked around New York City with Nayana Sen and Leigh Thompson, asking people what they thought about immigration and the slurs too often used to describe immigrants today. We started out at Battery Park, where people take ferries out to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The site is part of the Immigration and Civil Rights Sites of Conscience Network, committed to use historical perspective in order to stimulate ongoing local and national conversations on immigration and its related issues, promote humanitarian and democratic values, and treat all audiences as stakeholders in the immigration dialogue.
Inspired by the Sites of Conscience’s work, we asked people what they knew about their families’ roots in the U.S., what they thought about how immigrants are treated now and whether or not they agree with use of the i-word to describe people.
In most of our pre-interviews, people wanted to be on camera—but as soon as we said “immigration,” we got confused looks, artful turn-downs and fast walkers. It was a reality check about how unprepared and uncomfortable a lot of people feel when faced with this urgent topic.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Immigration Policy Center released a summary of recent data on Mexican migration to and from the United States. The data reveals an emerging new reality: fewer immigrants are coming, fewer are leaving, and a majority of the unauthorized population has been here for a decade or longer.
Although this data deals with Mexican immigrants as a whole and not just the unauthorized, it is a useful indicator of what is taking place in the unauthorized population. More than half (55 percent) of Mexican immigrants in the United States are unauthorized, and roughly three-fifths (59 percent) of all unauthorized immigrants are from Mexico.
The study comes on the heels of reports from the Pew Hispanic Center and the RAND Corporation about the state of immigration today. According to the Immigration Policy Center, the new trends suggest that U.S. immigration policies must transition away from the current efforts to drive out unauthorized immigrants with deep roots in this country, and move toward a more nuanced set of policies that help immigrants who are already contributing to the economy to more fully integrate into U.S. society.
Today, the Immigration Policy Center releases Using All the Tools in the Toolbox: How Past Administrations Have Used Executive Branch Authority in Immigration by Mary Giovagnoli, Esq. The paper examines the political battle over implementation of provisions of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) during the late 1990s.
It also looks at the role of executive branch authority during a key moment in the Bush Administration’s work on comprehensive immigration reform. Using the tools of executive branch authority, both the Clinton and Bush Administrations made the most of what the law had to offer, staying within the letter of the law, but opting for interpretations that reflected differing, but legally permissable, readings of the law. This lesson is worth recalling in the fight over prosecutorial discretion and administrative relief today.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) plan to review 300,000 immigration cases to assess whether they fall within the Administration’s enforcement priorities has already inflamed critics. Because the Administration may close some low priority cases in order to focus its limited resources on more serious cases, critics are immediately claiming this is an “amnesty.” But the DHS announcement is about using executive branch authority—in this case, prosecutorial discretion—to carry out its policy priorities.
The ability of whether the President can use discretion in the immigration arena has become the flavor of the month. The announcement by the DHS on August 18, 2001 under which 300,000 individuals who are low priority can hope to have their cases closed and obtain work authorization was welcomed. The details about how this policy will play out are nicely explained in a Legal Action Center advisory. Although many were pleasantly surprised by this policy, within days of the announcement even advocates for immigration reform have become skeptical about whether this policy will have a dramatic and far reaching impact. Obama supporters have even gone so far to accuse the Obama administration for mere window dressing in order to keep certain voters on his side in the next elections. Commentators such as Dan Kowalski also justifiably feel that ICE personnel will continue to ignore this policy, and choose not to exercise their discretion favorably.
While the President has his critics within the pro-immigration camp regarding his new announcement on discretion, the attempt by immigration restrictionists in Congress to blunt the June 17, 2011 Morton Memo on prosecutorial discretion when viewed in a larger context repeats an old pattern. For instance, Congressmen Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Senator Vitter have proposed a most unusual piece of legislation suitably called the HALT Act (Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation Act) that will suspend all of the Administration’s discretionary relief until January 21, 2013, which is the day after the next Presidential inauguration.
Hilda Jauregui and dozens of women at an Orange County immigration detention center recently gathered to hear the news on television that the Obama administration will review thousands of deportation cases with an eye closing those considered "low-priority."
FOR THE RECORD:
Deportation order: An article in the Aug. 29 LATExtra section about the Obama administration's plans to review 300,000 deportation cases was missing the word "toward" in the first paragraph. The paragraph should have said: Hilda Jauregui and dozens of women at an Orange County immigration detention center recently gathered to hear the news on television that the Obama administration will review thousands of deportation cases with an eye toward closing those considered "low-priority." Also, an earlier version of this online article stated that the Jauregui family had ignored a deportation order issued more than 10 years ago. The family actually appealed the order.
"Everyone was shouting and hugging each other," Jauregui said in a telephone interview from the James A. Musick jail facility last week. "One woman said 'I'll qualify because I'm older,' another said she had children who were born in the country. Everyone was trying to find something positive that would make them qualify."
U.S. Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano announced the review Aug. 18 as the administration was seeking to counter criticism that it has been too harsh in its deportation policies. The case-by-case review is intended to refocus efforts on felons and other public safety threats, officials said.
Now immigrants around the country are trying to find out how the review of nearly 300,000 deportation cases will actually work. The administration has said it would try to identify immigrants considered low-priority — including students, the elderly, victims of crime and people who have lived in the U.S. since childhood.
Jose Antonio Vargas came out of his first closet in high school when he told his classmates and family he was gay.
He came out of his second closet this summer, when he told the world he is an undocumented immigrant.
In his surprising, touching and much talked about New York Times essay, Vargas tells his story of being sent to America from the Philippines by his mother to live with his grandparents. Twelve-years-old when he arrived, it wasn't until he was 16 that he discovered he'd entered the country illegally.
Now 30, Vargas has built the kind of career a young reporter dreams of, much of it during his time at The Washington Post — covering the intersection of politics and technology in the 2008 presidential campaign; crafting a year-long series on AIDS in D.C. that was later adapted into the documentary The Other City; sharing a Pulitzer Prize with the Post team that covered the Virginia Tech massacre. During all that time, he was living with a secret that had the potential to end his career.
Reporting on himself — sifting through the history of his family and journey — hasn't been easy.
''I had to get it right,'' says Vargas. ''I only had one shot to tell this story and I had to tell it right, I had to be really accurate, or else people were just going to start picking holes in it.''
The story itself became a story when the news broke that The Washington Post had spiked the essay at the last minute. While the Times immediately picked up the piece, Washington's media class chewed over the question of why the Post had backed off. Slate media critic Jack Shafer dismissed Vargas's time in the immigration closet as a ''con.'' Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton wrote that Vargas had a reputation as ''a relentless self-promoter.'' Many others leapt to Vargas's defense, hailing his coming-out story as a watershed moment in the debate over immigration in America.
If there was ever any doubt that the only thing President Obama is truly gifted at is getting people to hope for change, we need look no further than his recent announcement to review the cases of up to 300,000 illegal immigrants facing deportation.
Too bad it's false hope.
Despite initial excitement of the immigrant advocacy organizations who are fighting for nothing less than a full 1980s-style amnesty -- and the correlated anger from conservatives who believe that last week's decision to re-evaluate the existing enforcement priorities is just that -- this is not a big step in immigration policy.
This latest Obama re-election campaign stunt won't affect 97 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in our country. It is causing a lot of confusion within the very communities it is supposed to assuage, and it is further alienating those who must come to the negotiating table to hammer out a compromise for our immigration quagmire.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer chimed in quickly after the news broke, denouncing this plan as a "backdoor amnesty." She and others can be forgiven for initially thinking that. At first blush it sounded as though, at the very least, 300,000 lucky souls who were close to being deported had gotten a reprieve.
Many immigration experts and advocacy organizations are urging caution. They're scrambling to tell the immigrant community to not turn themselves in to authorities or try to get themselves detained for the purposes of becoming "legal." The possibility -- and it is just a possibility -- of getting a slate cleaned is open only to the 300,000 already in the pipeline for deportation. Each case will be reviewed by a panel and, if the case is closed, legal resident status will not be granted.