A project of the Center for Community Change

joe arpaio

Catching up: Arpaio, detention reform and veterans facing deportation

I have been in San Francisco (thus the picture) for the past few days at a training with the New Organizing Institute. The training was a wonderful experience and I met some amazing people doing very exciting and important work (more on this later). But being away from the blogosphere for even a few days always stresses me out. So much has happened while I’ve been gone. There are a couple of things I want to write full-length posts on, but in the mean time, I’m going to do a quick round up of updates and news.

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First things first, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, long time Latino terrorize in Maricopa County, has lost some of his swagger! It was decided that Arpaio is to be stripped of his power to arrest undocumented immigrants in the county. What this actually means is that he can no longer racially profile and target people of a certain skin color. Though Arpaio says that he will continue to conduct raids, this is at least a step in the right direction coming from the Department of Homeland Security. Read more about it here and here.

Next up, this week the Department of Homeland Security announced its plans for reform of the nation’s immigrant detention system. DHS announced its outlines for reform this past Tuesday. And, like I’ve said before, they are certainly a step in the right direction. However, they will not be effective unless they are incorporated into a comprehensive reform of the full immigration system in this country. Kevin Johnson from NILC sums it up nicely here:

The DHS announcement today identifies several of the steps the agency must make to create a “truly civil system” and correctly notes that our current immigration enforcement programs “identify large volumes of aliens with low level convictions or no convictions” who should not be the focus of immigration enforcement efforts. The detention system can’t be viewed in isolation from how immigration enforcement is conducted.

Read more about proposed detention reform here and here.

In other news, Marisa Treviño from Latina Lista reports on the over 3,000 veterans who have fought for a country that won’t even make them citizens. And to repay them? They are now battling deportation. Read her full post here. And also check out the Reform Immigration FOR America blog’s write-up of  a new documentary on military families being torn apart of the broken immigration system. Those who risk their lives for our country deserve better – and as Marisa points out they even  “deserve extra kudos because their volunteerism runs much deeper than someone who is a citizen.”

Last on the list (which is by no means exhaustive) is a report that was released by the U.N. on Monday. The report’s main finding is simple: migrants contribute much more to their new countries than they take. For more on this check out CAUSA Oregon’s blog and listen to their podcast. So for all of the folks out there who continue to shout about immigrants who are “draining” our country, listen up!

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Continuing (and Expanding) 287g: Why we can’t afford more of the same

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Last week, it was announced that the Department of Homeland Security was signing 11 new local law enforcement agencies onto the program known as 287(g). The program grants local law enforcement agents the authority to enforce federal immigration laws. The destructive program cultivates a culture of fear among immigrants and communities of color, pours resources into the rounding up of immigrants instead of the protection of public safety and has been condemned by everyone from independent think-thanks to the Police Foundation.

So why is DHS continuing this failed program? While the announcement was made alongside the pledge of a long overdue “review” of the program, it is a mistake to expand any failed enforcement program in the absence of satisfactory comprehensive immigration legislation.

Let me be clear, this is the program that gives Sheriff Joe “I don’t have to answer to the DOJ” Arpaio the authority to round up Latinos like cattle and ignore his commitment to the actual protection of the public. This is the program under which Juana Villegas de la Paz was shackled to her hospital bed while giving birth to her child. This is the program that was found to “create a climate of racial profiling and insecurity” by a leading national university.

I am disappointed that the announcement of a review of this program was accompanied by an ill-advised expansion. This, more than anything, points to the need for a FULL OVERHAUL of immigration policy. We cannot continue failed programs in the absence of comprehensive reform.

As an editorial in the NY Times today stated:

Enforcement-only schemes were the rage back when anti-immigrant demagogues were in full roar and Bush officials wanted to show how tough they were. They bring us no closer to an immigration system that works. Mr. Obama promised fresh ideas on immigration reform. So far we don’t see them.

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Even the Police Foundation knows 287(g) is a bad idea

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I have been posting for at least a year about the negative impacts of the so-called 287(g) program that allows local police agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.  The most notable case of 287(g)’s negative impact on communities is that of Maricopa County and our food friend Joe Arpaio. 287(g) is the program that gives Arpaio the authority to continue  his reign of terror in Arizona.

Recently the Police Foundation, a non-partisan Think Tank whose stated goal is “Supporting innovation and improvements in policing“, released a study on local enforcement of federal immigration laws. The result? To be brief: Federal Immigration laws should not be enforced by local police agencies. Period. (Tell us something we don’t already know…)

Some interesting conclusions from the report:

  • The costs of participating in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program outweigh the benefits.
  • Police officers should be prohibited from arresting and detaining persons to solely investigate immigration status in the absence of probable cause of an independent state criminal law violation.

And my own personal favorite:

  • Local law enforcement leaders and policing organizations should place pressure on the federal government to comprehensively improve border security and reform the immigration system, because the federal government’s failure on both issues has had serious consequences in cities and towns throughout the country.

So, let’s go back through the list. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Alan Greenspan, Rahm Emanuel, the two biggsest Labor Unions in the country, the Faith community, Latino and New American Voters and a majority of the American Public all want immigration reform.

And as for 287(g), none of the conclusions of the report are surprising. Let’s hope the administration listens up, instead of pouring even more money into enforcement.

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