by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger
President Obama is shaking up the established political and corporate order with a bold economic agenda. Sadly, immigration reform remains untouched by Obama’s energizing blueprint for Change. Immigration policy and programs are still tied to President George W. Bush and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff: Paramilitary-style raids, detention centers, and the deputizing of otherwise-engaged local police forces continue to stand strong. Even as President Obama moves to close Guantánamo (though some argue his method), the promise of change in the U.S. remains tainted as long as the detention industry grows.
Roberto Lovato sums up this hypocritical inattention to immigration reform for New America Media:
The proliferation of stories in international media and in global forums about the Guantánamo-like problems in the country’s immigrant detention system- death, abuse and neglect at the hands of detention facility guards; prolonged and indefinite detention of immigrants (including children and families) denied habeas corpus and other fundamental rights; filthy, overcrowded and extremely unhealthy facilities; denial of basic health services – are again tarnishing the U.S. image abroad, according to several experts. As a result, reports from Arizona and immigrant detention facilities have created a unique problem: they are making it increasingly difficult for Obama to persuade the planet’s people that the United States is ready claim exceptional leadership on human rights in a soon-to-be-post-Guantanamo world.
Our current immigration policy is not thoughtful, measured legislation crafted by a consensus of experts. It is, in most cases, a patchwork of painfully and barely functioning laws, like a bone that knits crooked simply because it was never set properly. While those who benefit from unchecked ICE raids boast that “we can make a person disappear,” the rest of us can only wonder how “American” such a goal is. It’s a policy wrongly reliant on public loathing and lack of oversight. It supersedes U.S. laws to target “the Other.”
Agreement 287(g), which bestows immigration-enforcement powers on state and local police forces to relieve some of the federal government’s duties, has been disastrous in practice. Aarti Shahani and Judith Greene report on the particular fusion of civil and criminal law that is resulting in such chaos for New America Media. They aptly characterize the 287(g) agreement as “a state and local bailout of the federal government’s failed immigration enforcement business.”
Some background: The amendment of section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act was made under the radar of public attention and passed by a Republican Congress under Democratic President Bill Clinton. This change was a part of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). President Clinton let the ammendment stand. Florida, under the guidance of Gov. Jeb Bush, was the first state to use the provision to target the immigrant community following 9/11.
Critics of the merge between federal obligations and state enforcement charged that “turning police into deportation patrol would result in racial profiling, and make immigrant victims afraid to call 911,” write Shahani and Greene.
In actuality, 287(g) has played out poorls. Fanatics and TV-star wannabees like Sheriff Joe Arpaio have been given power at the expense of hard-working men and women. Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a congressionally commissioned report on the 287(g) program and, in essence, pronounced it a “misuse of authority.”
And in the face of all this, we have but weak and startled declarations of ignorance by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and silence from the Oval Office. Public News Service reports on the many human beings are “living in limbo“as they wait for the Obama administration to push forward on immigration reform. Even President Obama’s Aunt Zeituni is facing deportation. In an interview with Katie Couric on Nov. 2, 2008, Obama deflected the issue by claiming he hasn’t “been able to be in touch with her” but that immigration laws, “have to be obeyed.”
In WireTap’s Crickets Louder Than Obama As Aunt Faces Deportation, Beatriz Herrera responds with some passionate and true words: “Laws need to be obeyed, huh?” Herrera writes. “What about the fact that his Auntie Zeituni came here seeking asylum because Kenya’s politicians couldn’t obey their own laws, and as a result civil war broke out, forcing her to immigrate to the US?”
By working to close Guantánamo, peppering his speech with talk of law and order, and restoring US image to the world abroad, Obama risks muddying up his accomplishments with a blatant hypocrisy. We simply cannot lead the way when investing in detention systems from Arizona to Iraq. When did prisons become the solution to so many of our problems? The below video is from GritTV and features excerpts from a documentary on the U.S. detention system.
Perhaps the President is arranging his legistlative actions carefully and we have yet to see how we will make the change that millions are waiting for. But from the ground level, silence and the continuation of the Bush administration’s failed policies speaks louder. Returning to Wiretap, Beatriz Herrera speaks her heart about Obama’s absence from these issues. I’m sure she speaks for many of us as well:
I don’t want to turn my back on My First Black President, but having solidarity with him means he needs to have solidarity with me and my community of immigrant people of color, and he could start by taking an Air Force One flight to Auntie Zetuni’s house in the projects of South Boston and find out what the hell is going on.
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