Blog & Updates
Enforcement without Reform
August 05, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Photo by Stephen Mitchell
Newspapers across the country last week informed the American public about the failures of the immigration detention system. From reports on the government’s failing to follow its own meager detention standards to hunger-strikers in Louisiana protesting substandard detention conditions, the issue got some of the attention it deserves. Tuesday, the New York Times reported on the continuation of misguided, Bush-era immigration policies by the Department of Homeland Security:
After early pledges by President Obama that he would moderate the Bush administration’s tough policy on immigration enforcement, his administration is pursuing an aggressive strategy for an illegal-immigration crackdown that relies significantly on programs started by his predecessor.
A recent blitz of measures has antagonized immigrant groups and many of Mr. Obama’s Hispanic supporters, who have opened a national campaign against them, including small street protests in New York and Los Angeles last week.
…The administration recently undertook audits of employee paperwork at hundreds of businesses, expanded a program to verify worker immigration status that has been widely criticized as flawed, bolstered a program of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies, and rejected proposals for legally binding rules governing conditions in immigration detention centers.
The article continues to point to the growing drumbeat of discontent by immigration advocates who believe that DHS’s escalated enforcement tactics without real reform of the system is the wrong approach to immigration:
“We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way,” Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview.
...But advocates for immigrants said the new agreement did not include strong protections against ethnic profiling. They were surprised, they say, that Ms. Napolitano did not terminate the cooperation agreement with the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio, who calls himself the “toughest sheriff in America.” Latino groups in Arizona have accused Mr. Arpaio of using the program to harass Hispanic residents.
“If they reform the 287(g) program and Arpaio doesn’t change, it won’t be reform,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a national immigrant advocacy group.
— Firm Stance on Illegal Immigrants Remains Policy, August 4, 2009
The 287(g) program —the government agreement that gives local law enforcement agents the authority to enforce federal immigration laws — is the perfect example of a program that has failed to solve illegal immigration but instead has resulted in civil rights violations , widespread racial profiling and costly lawsuits to already cash-strapped localities. Even local police chiefs and police-officers oppose the program because it diverts the limited resources of local law enforcement from the primary responsibility of providing protection and promoting public safety in the community. It also makes witnesses and victims of crime reluctant to come forward and work with police to promote community safety.
Yet despite these shortcomings, the Department of Homeland Security continues to expand the program. This led to the editorial board of the Star Ledger in Newark, NJ, to ask the question: What’s the point?
287(g) seems to unleash the worst anti-immigrant sentiment in many communities. In one North Carolina county participating in the program, a local citizens group found after perusing arrest records that most of the illegals processed for deportation had been picked up for traffic offenses.
[Morris County Prosecutor Robert] Bianchi has the better game-plan when it comes to illegal aliens and major crime. Until we get comprehensive immigration reform, 287(g) is nothing more than an ineffective half-measure, diverting police resources and providing a platform for local officials to grandstand about illegal immigrants without adding to public safety.
— Immigration law lacks purpose, August 3, 2009
There is a desperate need for broader oversight of our immigration policies. Escalating enforcement without reforming our immigration system comprehensively only exacerbates the problem and it will not render long-lasting solutions to our immigration chaos.