Tuesday, June 1, 2010

In Our Community: Immigration News

Photo from Alto Arizona.

It's been a big week for immigration, with significant highs and lows. The news on immigration from Monday, May 24 to Tuesday, June 1:

On Tuesday, May 25, President Obama announced the decision to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border. He also requested an additional $500 million to enhance border enforcement activities. In 2006, the Bush administration sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border during Operation Jump Start and, while this current deployment is at a smaller scale, it is still the same enforcement-only approach that hasn't worked in the past.

FCNL strongly opposes the use of the National Guard on the border. Our colleagues on the border have released a powerful statement of opposition as well. Law enforcement, not military personnel, should focus on stopping drug smuggling, arms smuggling, and human trafficking. To deal most effectively with migrants crossing the border, President Obama and Congress should act swiftly to enact comprehensive immigration reform. We've seen that border-only strategies don't work, so why would President Obama keep trying that same tired routine?

We had a big success here on the Hill this week - on Thursday, the Senate voted against three amendments to the emergency war supplemental which would have drastically expanded border enforcement initiatives. Senators McCain (AZ), Kyl (AZ), and Cornyn (TX) had introduced amendments that would have added 6,000 National Guard troops, 6 more drones for surveillance, 3000 new detention beds, and thrown millions of dollars at unworkable deterrence programs. FCNL and our partners acted swiftly to contact members of Congress and our networks generated tens of thousands of grassroots calls. In the end, the Senate rejected all three amendments - but we are still working for decisive action on immigration reform.

On Saturday, May 29, over 100,000 people gathered in Arizona and around the country to oppose the new Arizona law and copy-cat bills in other states. You can see photos and videos here. The message of the people is clear: NO to racial profiling and YES to immigration reform.

Police chiefs from Los Angeles, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Houston, Maryland, and Arizona met with Attorney General Eric Holder on May 26 to voice their concerns about the new Arizona law and similar proposals from other states. The chiefs stated that these laws, which virtually require racial profiling, would erode trust between police and their communities and distract officers from their primary tasks. Holder is expected to make a decision soon about whether to challenge the Arizona law in court.

Other highlights from the news:

Detained immigrants are being counted for the census without their knowledge and then deported, while the cities and towns hosting detention facilities are rewarded by receiving more federal money than they would otherwise.

The number of immigration cases in federal courts reached a new all-time high of 242,776 at the end of March and this backlog continues to extend wait times - immigrants now wait, on average, 443 days for their case to be resolved.

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