It is time to demand that President Obama stop what has become one of the most aggressive and ruthless efforts in decades to deport people from the United States. In the last FOUR years, this President has deported TWICE as many undocumented immigrants as Bush’s administration did in EIGHT years! This by a president who owes the next four years primarily to the trust the Latino voters put in him over candidate Romney.
Are you ready for the grim facts? By the end of this year the U.S. is on track to deport two million people during Obama’s administration. To put that number in perspective, that is nearly the same number of deportations in the United States from 1892 to 1997! President Obama seems to want to claim he is as tough on illegal immigration as the Republicans so that his opponents will cooperate with him when he tries to reform our broken immigration system this summer. I believe that is a foolish gamble!
Although conservative critics of new immigration laws have long cited “lenient” enforcement as a reason to oppose giving so-called “illegals” a way to become legal. I say that our policy on deportation has become an unfair and indiscriminate witch hunt that is forcing people out of the country with no realistic hope of returning exactly at the wrong moment--when the promise of eventual U. S. citizenship could be right around the corner! After all, if it does occur this year legalization won’t be on the plate for those who are deported before such legislation is considered, given the three, ten and permanent bars that are in place today to prevent even spouses and parents and children of U.S. citizens from returning to the U.S.
“Enforcing a broken system aggressively right before we’re about to change it is not just not compassionate, it’s cruel,” said Jim Wallis, the chief executive of Sojourners, a Christian social action group. “If you are breaking up families because of politics, we’re going to speak out against you.” That sentiment is shared by many others, including Lorella Praeli, the director of advocacy and policy at United We Dream, the largest network of young undocumented immigrants in America.
Administration officials insist that the government has worked hard over the past four years to focus mainly on deporting criminals and gang bangers, while leaving many others alone, especially those with American citizen children for the so-called sake of family unity. “We focused on smart, effective enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators,” said Matthew Chandler, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, according to Michael D. Shear of the New York Times Washington bureau.
But immigration advocates are strongly disputing those claims. What I’ve seen in my practice and that of my collegues around the country is that many of those being deported have done nothing wrong except that they one day, often many years ago, entered the country without documents. Since 2010, the government has deported more than 200,000 parents of children who are U.S. citizens! “Our communities are being torn apart for minor offenses,” said Ms. Praeli. She points to a recent case last month in Arizona where the mother of a young immigration activist was put on a bus for deportation before a huge outcry in the social media prevented the government from carrying out their threat to deport her. Ms. Praeli stated the sentiment of millions, “We expect more leadership from the president on this issue.”
Yet, Angela Maria Kelley, the vice president for immigration policy at the Center for Immigration Progress, claims some of the activists were being unrealistic. “It feels like it’s a little bit tone deaf to what’s going up on Capitol Hill,” she said. “I’m sympathetic to the feeling that people are hemorrhaging. But, at the end of the day the real cure comes from Congress.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said recently that there had been “real improvements” in immigration enforcement efforts, including more security at the border, and said, “...it helps a lot...” in the fight for immigration legislation this year. But, the administration’s aggressive deportation tactics have failed to move his most vocal conservative critics, who continue to insist that Obama is doing too little to crack down on illegal immigration.
At a hearing on immigration in Congress last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. stated: “Had this administration done a better job of enforcement, had been more effective in moving forward with a lawful system of immigration, you would be in a much stronger position with the American people.”
As Abraham Lincoln famously said: “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Mr. Obama needs to decide whether he wants to continue to please those unrealistic opponents of comprehensive immigration reform who can seemingly NEVER be pleased or to speak out for the growing numbers who helped him get re-elected when things looked difficult for him, and who demand a realistic and humane immigration policy that removes the incredibly lengthy and difficult--if not impossible--legal path to citizenship for those who are willing to work hard and, if necessary, to die for this country.
Let the legacy of the Obama Presidency be to not unfairly punish those who have toiled the land in El Norte, but rather, to allow them to reap the harvest and the fruits of their labor along with the rest of us, who have benefitted in so many ways from their under-appreciated contributions, year after year. After all, isn’t that what America is all about?
Since the timeline for Comprehensive Immigration Reform is moving along rapidly we need to move as quickly to ensure that any new proposals for immigration reform promotes fairness for all immigrations. The Immigration Justice Network asks all of us to consider endorsing the set of principles at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dHV0SXlnd1NIUXVnRnhmLW5YNVl2Umc6MA.
Let us passionately demonstrate broad support for protecting and increasing the rights of all immigrants. Immigration Works! It is who we are!
PRINCIPLES FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM THAT PROMOTE FAIRNESS FOR ALL IMMIGRANTS
Many of us have fought for years for fundamental fairness for all immigrants. We have sought to roll back harsh mass deportation programs that tear apart families and to ensure that our immigration laws align with our values of justice. As we build towards an overhaul of our federal immigration system, we must take this opportunity to address some of its most egregious aspects and simultaneously resist new harmful provisions that we would have to fight for decades to come.
Ending Disproportionate Double Punishment for Past Convictions
Since 1996, certain criminal convictions, including some minor misdemeanors from many years ago, automatically trigger deportation for life regardless of individual circumstances. Immigrants suffer a disproportionately harsh double punishment because they have already served their criminal sentence prior to deportation proceedings. Some immigrants even face deportation for conduct that was not deportable at the time it was committed or is not considered a “conviction” under state law.
Restoring a Fair Day In Court
Immigrants should not be treated only as the sum of their mistakes in a nation that values second chances. Immigration Judges must be given back the power to grant a second chance and cancel someone’s deportation after looking at other aspects of a person’s life—such as family ties, length of time in the U.S., rehabilitation, and acceptance of personal accountability. Criminal court judges should also be given back the power they once had to recommend against deportation.
Terminating Mass Deportation Programs, like the Criminal Alien Program, Secure Communities,and 287(g)
The entanglement of these deportation programs with the criminal justice system threatens the rights of U.S. citizens and immigrants alike, encouraging racial profiling and resulting in long periods of detention. This undermines community safety by eroding trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement. Immigrants hoping to reunite with their families by coming or returning to the U.S. without authorization now also face excessive criminal punishments, compounding the racial and economic injustices of the criminal justice system. Immigration legislation must rein in the constant funneling of immigrants into the deportation system and the unequal treatment of immigrants in the criminal justice system.
Ending Fast-Track Deportations
Current immigration laws allow the government to deport many without letting them see an Immigration Judge. Most also do not have lawyers to help them. For these people, low-level government agents simply decide to order their removal. No one should be banished from the U.S. and torn from their family and community without their day in court.
Ending Mandatory Detention
Laws that require jailing thousands of immigrants while they fight their deportation cases are inhumane. Even in the criminal justice system, people facing charges can at least request bail. Many immigrants are transferred to for-profit detention centers thousands of miles from their homes, do not have access to lawyers, and are pressured to accept deportation to escape the deplorable conditions.
Immigration reform legislation is a minefield, full of potential deportation traps for those currently in lawful status and those trying to obtain it.
Fight Back Against:
• Automatic unwaivable bars to getting lawful status
• New deportation grounds
• Increased immigrant detention
• Expansion of mass deportation programs
• Heightened militarization of the border
• Greater immigration and criminal penalties for border-crossers and other immigration-related violations
The Law Offices of Daniel E. Chavez is located in Sonoma County and helps clients with immigration law matters throughout the Northern California San Francisco Bay Area. Contact Daniel E. Chavez online or call 707-775-4531 to set up a confidential consultation.