By Brenda Lopez Romero
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized more local police enforcement to use section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. 287(g) allows state and local authorities to have some of their officers trained to enforce immigration laws. Many advocates believed that the Obama administration would end this program, because they believe that 287(g) is arbitrary and punitive. Civil and human rights organizations argue that this program leads to multiple violations of the law and the Constitution because it is so susceptible to abuse by law enforcement officials.
In the beginning of this year, the Government Accountability Office found that the program lacked internal controls, with the result that 287(g) officers were detaining traffic-offenders rather than genuinely criminal aliens.
Advocates argue that the program makes immigrant communities less safe, including those that are U.S. citizens and legal residents, due to the strained relationship between local police authorities and the people. In fact, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona is now being investigated by the Justice Department on allegations that include racial profiling and due process violations.
(PHOTO: The Economist)
Another strong supporter of “tough” immigration enforcement includes the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as a hate group in part for its support of xenophobic hate speech.
Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, expects immigration work to restart in Congress in 2010. “As of right now, I have not been convinced that comprehensive immigration reform cannot move in 2010, so it needs to move,” Saenz said. “If that is not possible, then I’m interested in discussing this idea of down payments with a commitment to fulfill the obligation through comprehensive immigration reform that is not postponed indefinitely.”
“Part of President Obama’s mandate coming in, particularly in the high levels of support that he received from Latino voters in critical states, I think a significant part of his mandate was about comprehensive immigration reform,” Saenz said. However, Saenz is convinced that a good start is ending 287(g), a statute that has in effect created unsafe communities, and has essentially condoned civil rights abuses.
In New York, a multilingual religious group of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Yoruba that took part in the prayer service and made a call for justice for hardworking, taxpaying communities, because “the need for comprehensive immigration reform remains as pressing as ever,” the religious leaders said in a written statement. “Our communities continue to suffer because of raids, anti-immigrant press, hate crimes against the immigrant community, and a broken immigration system that keeps at least twelve million people undocumented.” Reverend Donna Schaper stated that “this is un-American” and that family values did not stop at the borders.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics prove the claims that hate crimes are an increasing nationwide problem, particularly assaults against Latinos.
For more information, please see:
The Associated Press – AP Interview: Leader Has Back-Up Immigration Plan – 26 September 2009
The Economist – The Continuing Crackdown – 17 September 2009
The NY Daily News – Anti-Immigration Group FAIR Mars Smart Reform Push by Faith Groups – 17 September 2009