Tag Archives: new york times

NY Times: Local immigration enforcement is a bad idea and Dallas can prove it

I recently wrote about the Dallas, TX police officer who wrote a ticket to a woman for being “a non-English speaking driver”, and then the subsequent discovery that the agency has written 39 such tickets in the past few years. Check out the video above for more on this.

Today, the New York Times picked up on the story and had this  say:

This is a country that has repeatedly gone overboard in its reaction to immigrants who don’t speak the common tongue, but the mind still reels at this one. Where were these officers’ supervisors, who presumably reviewed and approved each of these tickets after they were filed? Where were the judges who must have encountered these language offenders in traffic court? The noxious practice was exposed and stopped only last month after one driver, Ernestina Mondragon, responded to her ticket with defiance and a lawyer.

The embarrassment is not just a problem for the Dallas Police Department. The country is in the middle of a fierce debate over how local police departments should deal with recent immigrants. Many but not all of them are here illegally but have otherwise committed no crimes.

On one side are the Obama administration and the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who firmly believe in outsourcing immigration enforcement to local police departments. On the other side are the considerable ranks of police chiefs and law-enforcement experts across the country who say there is no good reason for turning cops into immigration agents.

There is no question that the efforts to do so have been marred by poor training, racial profiling and other abuses — and widespread fear in the communities that the police are sworn to protect. If there is any remaining doubt, just take a look at what happened in Dallas.

Translation: immigration enforcement at the local level (287g) is a bad idea. Comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level is a good idea.

Its really quite simple, guys.

NYTimes Endorses AgJobs

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Last week I posted on the introduction of AgJobs, a bill that marks a great step towards Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Saturday’s New York Times featured a great editorial on why AgJobs merits support:

In a climate of seemingly permanent stalemate and rancor over immigration, a bill that has the support of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the advocacy group Farmworker Justice obviously has something going for it.

It’s a model compromise, mixing pro-business pragmatism with a commitment to protecting workers — future Americans — who do some of the country’s most vital yet difficult jobs. Whether AgJobs is enacted on its own or, more likely, folded into a larger immigration bill, it deserves a place at the table of comprehensive reform.

Please remember to:

Click here and send your Member of Congress a message telling them to support AgJobs!

Remade in America

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The New York Times is featuring a series on the impact of immigration in the United States. Right now the series features two interesting articles (here and here) on immigrant children and growing up in the United States.The pieces follow the story of Jesselyn Bercian, daughter of El Salvadoran immigrants, who lives in Washington, DC.

Growing up in this corner of immigrant America, Jesselyn Bercian saw herself as an ordinary Salvadoran-American kid. She dropped out of high school, hung out with gangs and identified with poor, streetwise blacks. To the extent she gave it any thought, she considered poverty a Latina’s fate.

How representative is she?

Though the articles approach the topic of assimilation (a tricky concept for many), they also note that sometimes assimilation can mean something other than what we typically expect.

The problems of young people like Jesselyn are sometimes called failures of assimilation. But they can also be seen as assimilation to the wrong things: crime, drugs and self-fulfilling prophecies of racial defeat.

As Jesselyn tells it, she assimilated to the surrounding values of gangsta rap.

“If you’re Hispanic, people already expect you to steal, to fight, to be rude, to be ghetto,” Jesselyn said. “If everyone thinks wrong of you, eventually you’re going to start thinking wrong about yourself.”

To read the full series, click here.

Game On: Obama will Move on Immigration Reform this Year

Today, President Obama heard our cries for immigration reform, and he has responded to our calls for action! An article appeared in the New York Times breaking the story of Obama’s intention of moving on comprehensive immigration reform this year. All I have to say is – it’s about time!

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According to the article Obama “plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.”  The President will speak publicly about his intentions in May and will begin rounding up a team of experts and advocates this summer, in order to begin crafting the legislation.

This news is an affirmation that Obama will make good on his campaign promises of immigration reform.

He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office.

This is a  politically savvy move – Latino and New American voters turned out in record numbers for Obama this past November.  But the bottomline may not be political,  it may be that this is the right move for the economy. Immigration reform is a crucial part of any plan to get our economy back on track. Not only will bringing workers out of the shadows increase wages across the board, it will increase our tax base, reward responsible employers and ensure fairness in the labor market. If  we want a level playing field where both American and immigrant workers are treated fairly and if we want to make sure everyone pays their share of taxes, we need comprehensive immigration reform.

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The article goes on, unfortunately, to cite too of the most infamous anti-immigrant groups in the country, FAIR and Numbers USA. Both groups are quoted giving reasons for why moving on immigration reform would be “politically disastrous” for Obama. But, they seem to have underestimated both the President and the groundswell of support for reform that we have been witnessing across the country.

Just last month, Mr. Obama openly recognized that immigration is a potential minefield.

“I know this is an emotional issue; I know it’s a controversial issue,” he told an audience at a town meeting on March 18 in Costa Mesa, Calif. “I know that the people get real riled up politically about this.”

But, he said, immigrants who are long-time residents but lack legal status “have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows.”

Immigrants need a way out of the shadows in order to help fix our economy. Fair and NumbersUSA clearly have no understanding about economic policy and no sense of what it will take to mend our communities and bring prosperity back to our families.  They are driven by their ant-immigrant agenda, no matter the cost.

Across the country, advocates are gearing up for May 1st, a day typically used to celebrate immigrant rights and remembered for the massive immigrants marches in 2006. Advocates, immigrants, faith leaders, community leaders and elected officials are all ready to stand with the President and make sure that immigration reform is passed in 2009.

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Anticipating opposition, Mr. Obama has sought to shift some of the political burden to advocates for immigrants, by encouraging them to build support among voters for when his proposal goes to Congress.

Marissa Graciosa of FIRM made this statement earlier today:

We endorse President Obama’s call for immigration reform and admire his courage to fight for something we all know must get done. This is the kind of bold and visionary action we expect from our political leaders.  Climbing our way out of this economic crisis means forward thinking policies that include fixing a broken immigration system that has created a servant class in our midst. America’s economy cannot recover if we allow 12 million immigrants to continue to live and work in the margins of our society.

Obstructionists will throw everything at this Administration’s attempts to create a society which recognizes the inherent value and worth in us all.  For too long we have shrunk in the face of key decisions that must be made to get our country back on track. We will not allow this to happen.

We’ve seen first hand the pain of immigrant families ripped apart by unjust raids.  Our communities and our nation have suffered long enough.

You know what that means? That means that our time is NOW. We must not only continue to fight for reform, but we have to bring our efforts to the next level.

Mr. President, you can count on us to make just and humane immigration reform happen this year. Game on!

Enforcement Gone Bad

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There has been so much published recently about the wrong turn taken by the Bush administration’s approach to immigration enforcement. Reports from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Migration Policy Institute have been especially damning. On Sunday, the NY Times ran an editorial reiterating that our immigration system is broken and that comprehensive reform is needed now more than ever. Here is an excerpt:

A report last week from the Pew Hispanic Center laid bare some striking results of that campaign. It found that Latinos now make up 40 percent of those sentenced in federal courts, even though they are only about 13 percent of the adult population. They accounted for one-third of federal prison inmates in 2007.

The numbers might suggest we are besieged by immigrant criminals. But of all the noncitizen Latinos sentenced last year, the vast majority — 81 percent — were convicted for unlawfully entering or remaining in the country, neither of which is a criminal offense.

The country is filling the federal courts and prisons with nonviolent offenders. It is diverting immense law-enforcement resources from pursuing serious criminals — violent thugs, financial scammers — to an immense, self-defeating campaign to hunt down … workers.

The Pew report follows news this month that even as a federal program to hunt immigrant fugitives saw its budget soar — to $218 million last year from $9 million in 2003 — its mission went astray. According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, of the 72,000 people arrested through last February, 73 percent had no criminal record. Border Patrol agents in California and Maryland, meanwhile, tell of pressure to arrest workers at day-labor corners and convenience stores to meet quotas.

The country needs to control its borders. It needs to rebuild an effective immigration system and thwart employers who cheat it. It needs to bring the undocumented forward and make citizen taxpayers of them.

Arpaio’s America

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This week, I posted on the new low hit by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, when he marched over 200 immigrant detainees shackled through the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. Today, the New York Times published an editorial calling on the new head of DHS, Janet Napolitano and the Federal Government to gain back control on an immigration enforcement system that has gone unchecked for much too long. I think its worthwhile to re-print the full piece here.

It has come to this: In Phoenix on Wednesday, more than 200 men in shackles and prison stripes were marched under armed guard past a gantlet of TV cameras to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence. They were inmates being sent to await deportation in a new immigrant detention camp minutes from the center of America’s fifth-largest city.

The judge, jury and exhibitioner of this degrading spectacle was the Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, the publicity-obsessed star of a Fox reality show and the self-appointed scourge of illegal immigrants. Though he frequently and proudly insists that he answers to no one, except at election time, the sheriff is not an isolated rogue. As a participant in the federal policing program called 287(g), he is an official partner of the United States government in its warped crackdown on illegal immigration.

The immigration enforcement regime left by the Bush Administration is out of control. It is up to President Obama and the new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, to rein it in and clean it up. This applies not just to off-the-rails deputies like Sheriff Arpaio, but to the federal enforcement agencies themselves.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol have been shown in recent news accounts to be botching their jobs. Border Patrol agents in California have accused supervisors of setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, and a recent Migration Policy Institute study showed that a much-touted campaign of raids against criminal fugitives was a failure. It netted mostly the maids and laborers who are no reasonable person’s idea of a national threat.

The burden of action is particularly high on Ms. Napolitano, who as Arizona’s governor handled Sheriff Arpaio with a gingerly caution that looked to some of his critics and victims as calculated and timid.

Ms. Napolitano, who is known as a serious and moderate voice on immigration, recently directed her agency to review its enforcement efforts, including looking at ways to expand the 287(g) program. Sheriff Arpaio is a powerful argument for doing just the opposite.

Now that she has left Arizona politics behind, Ms. Napolitano is free to prove this is not Arpaio’s America, where the mob rules and immigrants are subject to ritual humiliation. The country should expect no less.


ICE Raids Shift Focus: Policy Bends to Politics

Before I even woke up today, at least 5 people had sent me a link to a current article in the New York Times by Nina Bernstein. In the article, she explores the dramatic shift in ICE raids that has occurred in the past 4 years. As we all know, ICE raids have been symbolic gestures by the Bush administration to look as though they are “doing something” about immigration since facing a failed reform push in 2006.

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Well now, thanks to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, we know that these policy shifts were internal directives by immigration officials that changed ICE’s policies, directly contradicting the programs that Congress had approved.

But in fact, beginning in 2006, the program was no longer what was being advertised. Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.

Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.

Internal directives by immigration officials in 2006 raised arrest quotas for each team in the National Fugitive Operations Program, eliminated a requirement that 75 percent of those arrested be criminals, and then allowed the teams to include nonfugitives in their count.

In the article, the list of changes continues. It becomes increasingly clear that this is an example of policy bending to the will of politics – in other words, despite the humanitarian and civil rights concerns of what ICE was doing, the agency had an agenda to follow and would do so no matter what.

“It looks like what happened here is that the law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the political agenda of the administration.”

Let’s hope that this new administration, along with Janet Napolitano at the helm of DHS, can produce policies that are realistic, humane and inflexible to the political agendas of the last 8 years.

Click here to read the full NY Times article.

Report Condemns Treatment of Immigrant Detainee

This past August, I posted on the story of an immigrant detained for overstaying a visa, who then died in custody after suffering neglect and abuse at the hands of detention facility employees.

Yesterday, Nina Bernstein of the NY Times reported on the investigation into this case.

The federal investigation began last summer, soon after The New York Times reported on the death of Mr. Ng, 34. His extensive cancer and fractured spine had gone undiagnosed, despite his pleas for help, until shortly before he died in custody on Aug. 6.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, said the investigation showed that supervisors at the Wyatt detention center had in effect prevented Mr. Ng from meeting with his lawyer by refusing him the use of a wheelchair when he was too ill and in too much pain to walk.

The 33-page investigation report also found that the guards and medical staff, acting on orders of the warden, violated the jail’s policy on the use of force when Mr. Ng was dragged to a van for a trip to Hartford, where his lawyers say he was pressured to withdraw all his appeals and accept deportation.

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The treatment of Mr. Ng was absolutely appalling – to merely call it an injustice is an understatement. But, we must also remember that his detention itself was hardly warranted. Like  many others, he was a victim of the convoluted and broken immigration system.

Mr. Ng, who had no criminal record, overstayed a visa years ago and had been applying for a green card through his wife, a United States citizen, when he was taken into detention in July 2007 and shuttled through jails and detention centers in three New England states.

Not only was Mr. Ng attempting to gain citizenship through the proper procedures, but he was married to an American citizen. If our system can fail Mr. Ng so egregiously, shouldn’t there be a change? Stories like this add to groundswell of voices calling for Just and Humane Immigration Reform in the new administration. We have a responsibility to create a system that works for everyone, for Mr. Ng, and for so many others who have been victims of failed policies.

Finally, Some Steps to Hold ICE Accountable

ICE RAIDOn Tuesday, the NY Times published an article about complaints that are being filed against ICE for excessive use of force and brutality during raids conducted in Florida in Novemeber.

“There is a way that these operations should be conducted,” said Jose Rodriguez, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Miami-Dade County. “And this is not it.”

At a news conference, Mr. Rodriguez and others said agents had relied on vaguely worded warrants to invade people’s homes and arrest nearly anyone who looked Hispanic. In all, according to the federal agency, 77 illegal immigrants were detained in the operation, and only a handful appear to have been charged with a crime.

In the case involving the accusations of beatings, none of the men have been charged with sex trafficking. Lawyers working with the men said the agents used excessive force: bursting into their home in Homestead about 8:30 p.m., pulling their guns in front of a 4-year-old girl, then forcing all 10 or 11 men inside onto the floor in handcuffs.

This scenario sound eerily familiar to anyone else? Not only are raids systematically denying due process and tearing apart families and communities, they are excessive displays of force and police brutality. Remember my posts about the raid in Annapolis, Maryland earlier this year? This excessive use of SWAT-style force is something that happens over and over when ICE is involved.

Its good to see ICE being held accountable for their actions. The Agency has gone unchecked for too long. Let’s hope this marks a beginning of the end of their absolute power and free reign to bend the rules.

Janet Napolitano set to Head DHS – Reaction Roundup

In the past week its become clear that Governor Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) is the front-runner for the position of Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Napolitano has been a controversial presence in Arizona and it has been said that Obama is tapping her based on her extensive experience around immigration. So – what does this mean?

Below is a round-up of reactions to the news from:

America’s Voice , The New York Times, The Sanctuary, The Washington Post and The Immigration Policy Center Blog – Immigration Impact.