Monday, October 12, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

Here we go: The news on immigration from Monday, October 5 to Monday, October 12. Happy reading!

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in Arizona, has made the news again. Deputized under the 287(g) agreement to enforce immigration laws, Sheriff Arpaio has used his expanded powers to engage in widespread racial profiling, terrorize communities, and make mass arrests. As the New York Times editorializes, "Sheriff Arpaio has a long, ugly record of abusing and humiliating inmates." He says that he has already arrested more than 32,000 people on immigration charges, based almost entirely on racial profiling in Hispanic communities. Now, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has cut back their agreement with Sheriff Arpaio's office. Under the new agreement, Sheriff Arpaio will not be able to enforce immigration laws on the streets, but he will still be able to do so in jails in his county. We at FCNL maintain that federal immigration law should only be enforced by federal agents. The 287(g) program should be dismantled. As a first step, we urge DHS to cancel, in full, their agreement with Sheriff Arpaio.

In other communities around the country, including in Los Angeles, new agreements under the 287(g) program are being created, amidst much criticism. (In that vein, we encourage Mayor Bill White of Houston, TX, to choose not to participate in the 287(g) program.) When local police officers enforce federal immigration law, there is a trade-off. As more of their time is spent arresting, processing, transporting, and detaining people suspected of being undocumented immigrants, less of their time is spent attending to the legitimate safety and security concerns of their communities. This trade-off weakens communities and discourages crime reporting. See this article by Irasema Garza, of Legal Momentum, about how the 287(g) agreement discourages immigrant women from reporting domestic violence, sexual abuse, and workplace exploitation.

The costs of the 287(g) program are simply too high to be sustained.

In brighter news, Thomas E. Perez was just confirmed as the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Perez will hold the country's top civil rights post. His confirmation is long overdue - President Obama nominated him in March - but we look forward to his efforts to combat discrimination against immigrants, communities of color, and other vulnerable populations.

Back to the legislative side of things: How's comprehensive immigration reform looking? Stay tuned, because tomorrow, on October 13th, Representative Luis Gutierrez will be releasing the principles for his progressive bill on immigration reform. It is our sincere hope that this bill contains strong provisions to promote family unity, create reasonable pathways to citizenship and legal status, ensure rights and protections for all workers, and reform the detention system.

Now that health care reform is moving forward in the Senate, a number of media outlets are also looking at what's ahead. Click here for Newsweek's assessment of the push for comprehensive immigration reform. This is what Roll Call is saying about the timeline for the Senate bill.

Speaking of health care, the Migration Policy Institute has just released a report, "Immigrants and Health Care Reform: What's Really at Stake?" This report finds that excluding green card holders from accessing benefits goes against the core priority of the health care reforms: making sure that this country's uninsured population is covered. If legal immigrants are not insured for basic and preventative care, they may be forced to rely primarily on emergency care, which stresses the health care system. In addition, imposing costly verification requirements would negatively affect U.S. citizens who are not readily able to prove their legal status. Take a look at the report for additional findings based on Census data.


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