A project of the Center for Community Change

Groups fight “more of the same” on immigration


Last week, amidst growing frustration from immigrant rights groups and advocates, folks from FIRM groups in New York (NYIC) and Los Angeles (CHIRLA) took to the streets to protest the expansion of Bush-style immigration policies and legislation. While many of our groups (FIRM included) looked to the Obama presidency as a “New Day” for immigration, the reality of recent weeks has worn patience thin. The New York Times ran a story this week, highlighting the growing discontent and impatience.

First, there was the expansion of E-verify – a fatally flawed electronic verification system that threatens not only American workers but immigrants caught up in the endlessly bureaucratic immigration system. Then, there was the expansion of the 287g program – which gives local law enforcement the ability to enforce federal immigration law and is rife with racial profiling and abuse of power.

To be frank, we were promised a “new day” and we feel like we are seeing more of the same.

“We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way,” Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview.

There is no right way to expand flawed systems. They are just that; flawed. Of course enforcement has to be a part of a Comprehensive Immigration Package, but it should not be expanded outside of an entire overhaul of legislation. As Katy Vargas at ImmPolitic blog wrote:

There is a desperate need for broader oversight of our immigration policies. Escalating enforcement without reforming our immigration system comprehensively only exacerbates the problem and it will not render long-lasting solutions to our immigration chaos.

Last week, America’s Voice launched the “Enough” campaign, calling on the Department of Homeland Security to push for Comprehensive immigration reform, not an expansion of flawed and abusive programs. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, do it NOW. (Sign petition here)

President Obama promised a new day for immigration policy in America, but we have yet to see sufficient change coming from DHS. Rather than overhaul misguided Bush-era immigration enforcement strategies, DHS continues to pursue policies that have done little, if anything, to solve the crisis of illegal immigration.

These policies continue to increase fear in our communities and undermine public safety at a time when the nation is waiting to hear your plans for advancing real, comprehensive immigration reform.

While, on a personal level, I have been very disappointed with the recent moves from the administration (especially the expansion of 287g), I still have faith that the President is ready and willing to bring sensible solutions to the table to help fix our broken immigration system. I firmly believe that we need to keep up the pressure and make our voices heard in order to push for this. Obama (and the United States for that matter) can’t afford to not succeed on this issue.

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