During interviews with civil and immigrant rights advocates about the complicated dynamics around immigration, several expressed concern that Arizona won't be the ultimate game changer. Instead, they worried that it could result in the creation of an even worse federal immigration system. And President Barack Obama, who has been accused of not doing enough to push ahead with federal immigration reform since he came into office, came under renewed fire last week, when he told reporters that "may not be an appetite" in Congress to deal with immigration, after a tough legislative year.
At the time, Obama had already denounced the Arizona bill as "misguided" and outlined a series of steps that he believes needs to happen to bring millions of undocumented residents out of the shadows.
"We are a nation of immigrants," Obama said. “But we are also a nation of laws. The truth is that 11 or 12 million folks, we're gonna have to make them take responsibility for what they did. And the way to do that is to make them register, make them pay a fine, make them learn English, make them take responsibility for the fact that they broke the law."
But when the president praised as “an important first step” an April 29 framework for reform that Sen. Charles Schumer and a handful of other Democratic senators put together within a week of SB 1070’s passage, civil rights advocates voiced concerns.
The Democratic senators proposal includes efforts to enhance border security and create fraud-resistant social security cards. But some immigrant advocates fear such steps will lead to a less democratic society, without addressing the underpinning causes of undocumented immigration such as international trade agreements and the appetite of U.S. employers for cheap, but legally unprotected and easily disposable, migrant workers.
“SB 1070 gives a national platform to the kind of sinister policies that extremist hate groups like FAIR and the Minute Men have been pushing for some time in Arizona,” he warned. “Those policies that have been in effect at the border are now going statewide and perhaps nationally."
"The Obama administration has expressed brief and tepid concerns but has not done anything to demolish the legal foundation on which these racist policies are built," Lovato continued.
Lovato points to the Bush administration’s flawed Section 287(g) program, which authorizes local and state law enforcement officials to be enforcers of federal immigration law, and has led to serious civil rights abuses and public safety concerns.
‘Now Obama and the Democrats are going to try and pin the tail of failure for federal immigration reform on the Republicans, ” Lovato claimed, criticizing, amongst other things, the Democrats' national I.D. card program proposal.
Lovato believes the immigrant rights community and Latinos will rise to the occasion and face "unprecedented sinister hate.”
But he is less confident in spineless Democratic officials.
‘Immigration is a thorny issue, especially for spineless Democrats,” Lovato said. “That Mayor Gavin Newsom would waffle and water down boycott attempts is no surprise.”
Lovato recalled how national Latino organizations begged and pleaded with Newsom not to require local probation officers to refer youth to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) before they had their day in court, a policy Newsom ordered in July 2008, when he was running for governor.
Lovato said Newsom's subsequent failure to respond to the community and their concerns "reflects an utter lack of leadership."
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is urging senators to press Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to terminate the 287(g) programs, and to make sure that lawmakers don’t acquiesce on civil liberties and privacy concerns in their rush to respond to demands for comprehensive immigration reform.
ACLU legislative counsel Joanne Lin told the Guardian that while Northern California does not have any official 287(g) agreements in place, Newsom’s flawed juvenile immigrant policy is part of a bigger and equally worrisome trend.
“The city’s sanctuary ordinance collapses criminal justice and the law enforcement system into one process,” Lin said. “And if we look at the federal Secure Communities Initiative that is now in over 100 jails, primarily those in southwest border districts, everyone is fingerprinted and run through a DHS and FBI database. It’s basically a way for DHS to i.d. everyone who is booked, whether they are here lawfully or their charges as are subsequently dropped or dismissed, and to fast track deportation."
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