Regardless of whether comprehensive immigration reform becomes law this year, 2010 has become the year of criminalizing immigrants. Criminalizing immigrants has become the conservative AND liberal approach to resolving pesky immigration problems. The polity has witnessed a remarkable convergence amongst liberal and conservatives that undocumented immigrants are criminals and deserve neither dignity nor rights in their efforts to make a better life for themselves and families.
The outcome? Reform or not, what’s occurring is a near pogrom against unauthorized immigrants and people who look like them.
In Arizona, already–and about 90 days before the new law is scheduled to go into effect– a Latino truck driver—born in Fresno—was arrested and detained for not having his birth certificate. The law itself racially profiles all Latinos in Arizona. It makes it a criminal offense to be an “illegal alien—and charges local police to identify and arrest them. Since even the governor who signed the bill cannot identify an undocumented immigrant, and no definition exists in the federal immigration code, all persons are under suspicion. The only way in which the state avoids racial profiling is to ask all persons regardless of race/ ethnic considerations for their papers. This police state tactic would have a difficult time squaring with the law’s backer’s “don’t tread on me” mindset.
The Obama Administration offers itself up to the rescue. Foreseeing the Governor signing SB 1070, Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi reshuffled their legislative agenda this session and placed comprehensive immigration reform on the front burner. They present CIR as the rational and reasonable alternative to SB 1070.
Problem is the version of CIR that Obama supports (Schumer/Graham), criminalizes immigrants if in a less obvious manner.
At bottom, as the writer Anis Shivani suggests, the similarities between SB 1070 and CIR are perhaps greater than the differences. They both contribute to and result from a culture of criminalization and xenophobia in Obama’s America.
Although SB 1070, places all Latinos under suspicion, CIR slightly less broad scope still criminalizes all Latino immigrants who have the misfortune of having their information taken down by a police officer and fed into a database.
Consider ICE ACCESS. The CIR likely will codify ICE ACCESS, which consists of 14 existing federal/state/local immigration law enforcement provisions, which include 287(g), CSAP and Secure Communities. It will legitimize, expand and extend these ICE ACCESS programs in a discredited broken windows approach to immigration, and racial profiling.
Under these programs, if an individual is pulled over by a cop, any record of prior law breaking could trigger an ICE agent to put a detainer in their file under 287(g), CAP or Secure Communities. The detainer prevents the immigrant from being released and instead signals the transfer of the immigrant to ICE custody for detention and possible removal. This process is triggered by no more than a traffic stop or broken taillight. Sometimes even less than that is needed.
Until now the Obama Administration has allocated over a billion dollars to such ACCESS criminal alien programs. In FY 2010, it allocated $1.5 billion to CAP and Secure Communities, and proposes additional hikes for FY 2011.
Such embrace of ACCESS is bewildering and continues to plague Latino communities at the Constitution’s great peril. CIR will also expand Secure Communities with biometric work authorization cards for everybody.
Who would have thought the liberal alternative to Arizona’s draconian law would consist of biometric work authorization, and a doubling down on programs that support police mishandling of immigrants as suspected criminal aliens?
When did collective guilt until innocence is proven become a liberal idea? Such is the scary rational alternative that Schumer/Graham would have us consider.