Why the Era of “Enforcement Only” Has Failed

ICE raid

The time has long passed, since our country lost it’s way in the struggle to figure out how to effectively deal with our broken and outdated immigration system. There are multitudes upon multitudes of missteps that I could point to along the way on our tragic misadventure. However, if I had to point to one specific decision that continues to confound this issue on a daily basis through to this day, it would have to be President Bush’s decision to “appease” the Restrictionists, in the wake of his second loss to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform passed in 2007.

Bush never was one for subtlety. He made an assumption that Restrictionists would eventually go along with the concept of CIR, if they saw that America was taking our existing immigration enforcement laws seriously. Therefore, he set us on a course of “enforcement only,” in an effort to prove that he could be tough on undocumented immigrants.

In the abstract, one could theoretically see the simple logic of his simple plan. By ramping up the enforcement side of the equation, he assumed that he could cozy up to his conservative base, while at the same time, cause just enough economic havoc in the marketplace for people to start calling for reform. His plan misread the tea leaves on many levels.

First of all, his economic policies imploded so severely, that we are now experiencing such massive unemployment, as to obscure any signs that the enforcement only approach has hurt our domestic economy (it has, actually). But because of the upheaval that his fiscal policies have wrought upon us, the undocumented labor issues, such as the recent firings of 1,800 undocumented employees at American Apparel, have barely been noticed on a national scale.

Similarly, in the absence of the passage of a CIR bill, his enforcement policies have served to tear apart families and crush the dreams and aspirations of thousands, if not millions of aspiring Americans, and citizens alike. The vacuum of reform has lead to the continuing alienation of millions of people, and has fostered or nurtured an atmosphere of racial tension and a climate of scape-goating.

Back in October of 2007, actually two years ago this week, I wrote an article that warned of the problems that the environment of “Enforcement Only” would engender upon us. The article, “The “Enforcement Only” Approach: Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It,” spoke to the situation that we now find ourselves in.

In the article, I mention…..the Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff’s dire yet understated warning that “there will be some unhappy consequences for the economy out of doing this”. Of course, he probably didn’t realize just how right he was. I warned in the article that

“the myopically short sighted anti-immigration reformers simply don’t have a clue as to how the economy works in the real world, and furthermore, exposes the dangers that the enforcement only approach posses to not only our economy here at home, but to the economic stability of our entire region of the World.”

However, it is actually the issue of social injustice that moves me to write today. The time to put the enforcement only environment on hold has never been more important than it is right now. We need to completely re-think what we are doing, until such time as we can put together a CIR package that makes sense, and that is fair and just, and allows for enforcement that targets only the right people, for only the right reasons.

Anna Gorman of the Los Angeles Times had two articles last week that addressed our current and continuing path down the wrong road on this issue, and the policies that are striking fear into our nation’s neighborhoods. She wrote that,

Despite continuing criticism about the program, authorities announced Friday that 67 local and state law enforcement agencies across the country would continue enforcing immigration law under special agreements with the federal government….Since 287(g) began, more than 1,000 local officers have been trained to enforce immigration law. More than 130,000 illegal immigrants have been identified under it, according to officials. In 2009, roughly 24,000 illegal immigrants identified have been deported.

She also wrote about how these programs are truly on the wrong track:

Yolanda Diaz, who was arrested on a charge of simple assault, said the arrest has dashed her plans of going to college in the United States. Her sister, Diana, arrested on a disorderly conduct charge, said she just wants to graduate from her high school. “It’s not fair,” she said. “Other people have done much worse things than this.” Marty Rosenbluth with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the government’s 287(g) program wasn’t designed to pick up illegal immigrants like the Diaz sisters. “I appreciate that they are saying they are prioritizing dangerous criminal aliens,” he said. “That is not what we are seeing.” Another one of his clients, Luis Cruz Millan, 30, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was ordered to report to an immigration officer after being arrested last month for allegedly listening to music too loudly in a car outside the Raleigh house where he was living.

Professor Kevin Johnson, Dean of the University of California Davis Law School, wrote passionately about how this climate of fear and hate has escalated our worst societal demons:

Sadly, it continues to be open season on Latinos — especially Latino immigrants — in the United States. The “sport” of “beaner hopping” is even defined in the Urban Dictionary.  What the heck is going on?  The latest news on this subject to report is a hate crime in Brooklyn, with the poor Mexican victim who was beaten senseless (and now unable to work and support his family) afraid to report the crime to police because of his and his wife’s immigration status. Will the federal government ever act?  How many senseless deaths of Latinos must occur before the Obama Administration condemns what is happening?  The spike in hate crimes against Latinos has long been in the news, as the debate over immigration reform, state and local anti-immigrant agitation, and Lou Dobbs and others have fomented hate..  Where is the U.S. Department of Justice, especially the Civil Rights Division? During the Presidential campaign, we were told by Senator Obama himself that “help was on the way.”  Many of us hoped and believed.  We have been patiently waiting on immigration reform, responses to hate on the streets, etc.  The wait has to end.  What has to be done to trigger a federal response to the daily injustices affecting Latinos in the United States?  Is there anyone out there?

Last week, I attended a meeting of community leaders in Los Angeles, and the issues of 287g agreements and our “enforcement only” policies are impacting communities in ways that surely our leaders never intended. This is a huge issue in the inner cities around the country.

Many misguided people have wrongly assumed that just because our local police have the capacity to arrest people, and jails in which to incarcerate them, that they would naturally be the right people to enforce immigration laws. They couldn’t be more wrong. The whole concept of police departments, is inherent in the motto of the LAPD: To Protect and Serve. How can our police people protect and serve our neighborhoods, when a large percentage of the population fears them, and won’t go to them for protection, because they rightly fear that they would end up being deported for their trouble?

Again, I want to make a plea to our nation, and particularly to our Government, that it is time to assume a full mantle of responsibility and sanity during this debate, and to re-examine our policies and tactics. If we have been trying to show that we can be tough on enforcement, I think that we have made that point, and we don’t need to continue to beat that dead horse. Clearly, at some point in our near future, we will come together in a dialogue aimed at restoring order to this atmosphere of chaos. Until that time, which should be within the next few months, let us put aside the tactics of fear and, what could be labeled an environment of institutionalized terror to our undocumented population of millions. The time for a rational federal – and federal only – policy is now. The time for fear and hate has long since passed.

10 responses to “Why the Era of “Enforcement Only” Has Failed

  1. Yes, I do see the social consequences to those who enter this country illegally. Perhaps they should have considered them before they made the momentous decision. Everyone, and I mean everyone is responsible for their own actions, those that rob banks, those who become alcoholics, those that purposely get pregnant, and illegal aliens. The honest citizens of this country demand that their laws be enforced. And there is no proof offered by Mr. Gittleson that CIR will stop illegal immigration. This is perhaps the greatest flaw in a strategy that caves to the desires of foreigners who never sought permission to enter our country, nor heeded the will of our people as expressed in our laws. Moreover, there are clear signs that CIR would never solve further illegal immigration, only exacerbate it, at least from Mexico. This article explains why:

    Poll: Mexicans Say Amnesty Would Increase Illegal Immigration
    Oct 14 12:30 AM US/Eastern

    A recent poll of the Mexican people revealed that if there was another amnesty, millions additional Mexicans will head to the U.S. The article

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A new survey by Zogby International finds that people in Mexico think that granting legal status to illegal immigrants would encourage more illegal immigration to the United States. As the top immigrant-sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants, views on immigration in Mexico can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty, as well as other questions related to immigration.

    The results are on the Center for Immigration Studies’ website:

    http://cis.org/ZogbyPoll-EffectsOfAmnesty . Among the findings:

    — A clear majority of people in Mexico, 56 percent, thought giving legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally. Just 17 percent thought it would make Mexicans less likely to go illegally. The rest were unsure or thought it would make no difference. — Of Mexicans with a member of their immediate household in the United States, 65 percent said a legalization program would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally. — Two-thirds of Mexicans know someone living in the United States; one-third said an immediate member of their household was living in the United States. — Interest in going to the United States remains strong even in the current recession, with 36 percent of Mexicans (39 million people) saying they would move to the United States if they could. This is consistent with a recent Pew Research Center poll which found that about one-third of Mexicans would go to the United States if they could. At present, 12 to 13 million Mexico-born people live in the United States. — An overwhelming majority (69 percent) thought that the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) should be to Mexico. Just 20 percent said it should be to the United States. The rest were unsure. — Also, 69 percent of people in Mexico felt that the Mexican government should represent the interests of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) in the United States. — A plurality, 39 percent, of Mexicans thought that in the last year fewer people they know had gone to the United States as illegal immigrants compared to previous years. Only 27 percent thought more had gone. The rest thought it had stayed the same or were unsure. — A plurality, 40 percent, also thought that in the last year more of the illegal immigrants they know had returned to Mexico compared to previous years. Only 25 percent thought the number returning had fallen. The rest thought it had stayed the same or were unsure. — Both the bad economy and increased immigration enforcement were cited as reasons fewer people were going to America as illegal immigrants and more were coming back to Mexico.


    As the nation begins debates the issue of immigration, the perspective of people in Mexico is important because Mexico is the top sending country for both legal and illegal immigrants. In 2008 one of six new legal immigrants was from Mexico and, according to the Department of Homeland Security, 6 out of 10 illegal immigrants come from that country. Asking people in Mexico their views on immigration can provide insight into the likely impact of an amnesty for illegal immigrants and other questions related to immigration.

    This survey is the first to ask people in Mexico if they thought legalizing illegal immigrants in the United States would encourage more illegal immigration. The survey was conducted in August and September of 2009 and consisted of 1,004 in-person interviews of adults throughout Mexico. The findings show that a majority of people in Mexico think that an amnesty would make it more likely that people in Mexico would come to the United States illegally. This is especially true for people who have a member of their households living in the United States. It is important to note that respondents were asked specifically about whether an amnesty would make illegal immigration more likely, not just immigration generally. Other questions in the survey explore attitudes about migration to United States generally, recent trends in migration, and loyalty to the United States.

    The results may give pause to those lawmakers who think that an amnesty/legalization for illegals immigrants would reduce illegal immigration in the future. The findings of this survey indicate that an amnesty would encourage more illegal immigration, at least from Mexico.


    The in-person survey done in Mexico for the Center for Immigration Studies by Zogby International was of 1,004 persons 18 years of age and older. The sampling framework was the most recent (2009) electoral sections defined by the Federal Electoral Institute. A multi-stage sampling procedure was employed that first randomly selected 100 electoral sections proportional to size. Second, two house blocks were randomly selected from each section. Within each block five households were selected using a systematic random procedure. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/- 3.1% for a 95% confidence level. Margins of error are larger for sub-groups.

    SOURCE Center for Immigration Studies

  2. You have absolutely no proof that opposition to illegal immigration has caused hate crimes. You offer nothing but what could statistically occur if there was no opposition at all. Moreover, only crime rates as used by our FBI and other enforcement agencies are valid, that is crimes per hundred thousand persons. When that methodology is used, there is virtually no change in hate crimes against Hispanics over a decade. The numbers of crimes may have increased by a handful, but the numbers of Hispanics has increased by the millions. That you would repeat the same distorted claim over and over again, in spite of the fact that you know full well that it is not true, speaks to your character. You apparently think that everyone is gullible to believe such bad statistics.

  3. Carlos,

    I will gladly relay your comment to Mr. Gittelson. I have no association with his wife and therefore cannot speak to her character. I do know that he understands the issue of immigration reform and has written various articles, posts and papers about it – all of which are pro-CIR and pro-immigrant (much like the character of this blog). I will not, however, approve your comment because of the use of language. If you would like to re-post it without the cursing, I will gladly approve it so it is visible publicly.



  4. I don’t think anybody has ever said that “opposition to illegal immigration has caused hate crimes”. I do, however, think that an increase in hate speech and dehumanization of Latinos and immigrants has aided in the increase in hate crimes against Latinos in the past ten years. And there are multiple sources to back me up.

    Also, the FBI IS the agency that has reported an increase in hate crimes against Latinos. Get your facts straight, Horace.

    The fact that you would claim this is somehow “distorted” speaks to just how out of touch with reality you are. Please, get a life and stop trolling blogs with your same, tired anti-immigrant agenda.

  5. Your lovely poll that you cite here was actually paid for by the Center for Immigration Studies, which is a front group for the notorious FAIR (who push a completely anti-immigrant agenda). I find it hilarious that you dare to argue that the only statistics that are viable on hate crimes are from the FBI, but you cite a clearly partisan poll such as this in your comment here.

    Obviously, you’re losing your edge.

  6. No Rachel, you don’t have anything to back that up. Considering the great increase in numbers of Latinos over a very short period time, in the millions, the crime rate increase has actually gone down. When you’re talking about increases in millions of Latinos but only a hundred or so increase in crimes, the crime rate has actually declined. The off cited figures by the disingenuous La Raza fail to take into consideration the huge increase in the population. Moreover, considering all the negative publicity illegal immigration has gotten, this country has done well compared to other countries in their restraint, but if you listen to La Raza, you’d think that there was mayhem in the streets. On the other hand, there isn’t a day that goes by when you don’t hear of illegal aliens get arrested for drunk driving, molesting some child or committing some other crime. I for one believe that we citizens shouldn’t have to put up with it for the sake of being charitable to foreign invaders.

  7. Robert Gittelson

    I would suggest to Horace that since the title of this article is “Why the Era of “Enforcement Only” Has Failed,” and since Horace seems to be arguing against that thesis, then I can only surmise that Horace believes that the current environment of chaos, in which we have no idea who is here in this country, while there are millions of residents that are living in fear and persecution, is just fine and dandy, and that everything is just perfect as it is – no need for any improvement to the system. “Problems? What problems?”

    Rachel, Horace may have lost many things, but his edge is probably not one of them. Horace and I have been going round and round on this issue for many years now. (However, Rachel’s answers to his allegations are spot on!)

    It is Horace’s assertion that “Everyone, and I mean everyone is responsible for their own actions…..” Okay, if everyone (and he means everyone), is responsible for their own actions, then presumably everyone, and he means everyone, is also responsible for their own inactions. Since the citizens of the United States made a concious decision not to enforce our laws, so that we could benefit from the labor, (and taxes), of the undocumented, then why aren’t we, the citizens of the United States, assuming our share of the responsibility for the presence of these residents/employees? Or, is Horace saying that only non-citizens are responsible for their own actions, as in, “Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, but not us, and I mean not us, is responsible for their own actions.”

    Horace makes the claim that, “And there is no proof offered by Mr. Gittleson that CIR will stop illegal immigration.” Ahh, the elusive attempt at disproving a negative. As Horace is so found of quoting the CIS, let us use their Executive Director Mark Krikorian’s favorite ploy, “anecdotal evidence.” CIR will, in addition to mandating additional fencing or detection equipment along the border, will require biometric identification for employment, (which Rep. Gutierrez labeled on the Lou Dobbs show “e-verify plus’). It will employ a hard cut-off date for entry, so that future undocumented entrants will not be able to qualify for a “pathway to legalization.” In fact, there will be dozens of enforcement measures aimed at eliminating future undocumented entry. Is Horace saying that our country is so inept that all of these enforcment provisions will not have any effect whatsoever? Does Horace believe that undocumented immigrants have “super powers” or something?

    Horace there is a reason why the only polls that consistantly come out against CIR are conducted by Zogby, and paid for by the various Tanton anti-immigrant groups. It is because at the end of the day, you can evidently manipulate the questions in such a way as to make the Zogby polls come out the way you paid for them to come out. Let us call that another example of the Krikorian anecdotal evidence.

    Finally, as to Horace’s assertion that, “if you listen to La Raza, you’d think that there was mayhem in the streets. On the other hand, there isn’t a day that goes by when you don’t hear of illegal aliens get arrested for drunk driving, molesting some child or committing some other crime. I for one believe that we citizens shouldn’t have to put up with it for the sake of being charitable to foreign invaders,” I think that Horace goes too far. First of all, there may not be mayheim on Horace’s street, or even my street, but make no mistake, mayheim, (as in beatings, murders, and other hate crimes), not only exists, but it is well documented. It is offensive to hear these intensional racial slurs. I don’t want to dignify this with much of an answer, other than to say that Horace and his ilk pander to the lowest common denominator of bias and race-baiting. This is not a way to solve a problem, this is a way to drive the wedge deeper.

  8. “Since the citizens of the United States made a conscious decision not to enforce our laws, so that we could benefit from the labor, (and taxes), of the undocumented, then why aren’t we, the citizens of the United States, assuming our share of the responsibility for the presence of these residents/employees? Or, is Horace saying that only non-citizens are responsible for their own actions, as in, “Everyone else, and I mean everyone else, but not us, and I mean not us, is responsible for their own actions.”

    That’s like blaming the invasion of France by the Germans on the French. The French were vulnerable to invasion, therefore it was there fault that they were attacked. Try polling the French public today about who caused WWII. I can guarantee that they won’t admit to their culpability. Try the same thing with the American public and only strong advocates of illegal aliens will admit to fault.

    Try obtaining the following confessions from the general public:

    1. Yes, it is our fault that we didn’t have a 20 foot fence, land mines and a guard ever 10-ft, so we were inviting illegal immigration. (Maybe we should have bankrupted our treasury to meet the enforcement requirement)

    2. We had a good economy, so it was our fault people people were attracted to it. (Maybe would just promote poverty for the sake of deterring illegal immigration)

    3. Unethical employers exist, so the honest folk should have to pay for their criminality. (Let’s incarcerate the honest citizens along with the crooks)

    4. We should let unethical and incompetent politicians in a conspiracy with ethnocentric groups neuter our immigration enforcement, so we should reward their success by permitting illegal aliens to say.

    I’ve got news for you, we as a nation should not have to take special measures to ward off foreign nationals, as respect for our laws should be sufficient. As we respect the sovereignty of others so should they respect ours. I don’t see any other country wracked with guilt and doing mea culpas because they have good governance, good economies and a desire to retain their national sovereignty in the face of illegal immigration. Only La Raza and guilt ridden leftists like you apparently wish to rid themselves of the self-flagellating pangs of guilt at the expense of their unwilling countrymen. Do you blame women for attracting rapists too? Why aren’t you blaming illegal immigration on the Mexican government and calling them to account, because if it weren’t for the unfavorable economic environment in that country there would be no illegal immigration? No, your blame the American people just doesn’t wash AND WILL NOT STAND.

    Democrats are too afraid of the vast public opposition to CIR and the Republicans will make huge gains in 2010, making CIR a dead issue.

  9. P.S. Zogby is a reputable polling group, as is Rasmussen which backs up their results. Calling the messenger names won’t change the results.

    Democrats will be fighting for their lives in the 2010 elections and won’t be sacrificing votes for the sake of CIR for illegal aliens or the minority of Americans who back them.

  10. PS. PS. Check the latest Gallup poll. It supports Zogby and Rasmussen. I doubt that Zogby is going to compromise its credibility, regardless of the client, as polling is its bread and butter and deliberately skewing results would destroy them. Go ahead, Gittleson, smear them all, and continue to live a life of self-delusion. Such tactics always surface when advocates for illegal aliens are losing on the merits.

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