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Immigration has and always should be a federal issue. So even if Arizona has decided to pass an anti-immigrant law that will inevitably lead to racial profiling, the federal government still has the power to do the right thing. And that’s what seems to be happening, as the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton expressed skepticism about SB1070, stating that ICE would not “necessarily” process undocumented immigrants referred to them by Arizona. Like President Obama’s denunciation from a few weeks ago, Morton believes that “the Arizona law, or laws like it, are not the solution”, favoring a comprehensive federal approach rather than disparate state laws to address our broken immigration system.
But while John Morton’s criticism of Arizona’s draconian enforcement measure is encouraging, his desire for increased enforcement is not. ICE is planning to step up immigration enforcement in a number of states by expanding collaborations between federal and local law enforcement through programs like 287(g) and the Secure Communities. With a record high number of deportations carried out in 2009, and a 40% increase from that in 2010, a “sharp increase” in deportations of immigrants is predicted for the end of this year.
So what Morton is not addressing is that the very same programs that are being expanded have paved the way for bills such as SB1070, by sending a signal that collaborations between local police and federal immigration is encouraged, even though these lead to racial profiling and loss of trust from communities. Take the case of Eduardo Caraballo, a Puerto Rico born Chicago resident who was arrested in connection with a stolen car last week. He maintains his innocence with regard to the car, but while that was being investigated, his real nightmare began. After his mother posted bail on Friday, Eduardo, a U.S. citizen, was told that he was being turned over to Immigrations and Customs enforcement who were detaining him on the suspicion that he was undocumented. Eduardo says he repeatedly told the officers that he was born in Puerto Rico and an American citizen.
I’m pretty sure they know that Puerto Ricans are citizens, but just because of the way I look – I have Mexican features – they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake. They were making me feel like I can’t voice my opinion or I can’t even speak for myself to let them know that I am a citizen.
The officers interrogated him about Puerto Rico but since he had moved to mainland U.S.A. when he was 8 months old, he was unable to answer them. Even after his mother presented the officers with his birth certificate and state I.D., the officers maintained that he was facing deportation. It was only after his mother contacted Congressman Gutierrez in desperation, that Eduardo was released. Rep. Gutierrez, of Puerto Rican descent himself and a big advocate for immigration reform, said that the situation is going from bad to worse. He saw Eduardo’s case in Chicago to be emblematic of everything that would go wrong if Arizona’s anti-immigrant law was to be implemented.
In Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they’re legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they’re an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government… could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It’s very, very, very dangerous ground to tread.
While Caraballo is considering legal action, Rep. Gutierrez is hoping that this outrageous incident will demonstrate the risk involved in the local police enforcing immigration law, and open the eyes of Congress and the White house to the dangers of racial profiling.
The urgent need for a reversal of Arizona’s law and a broader immigration reform bill has led to a series of protests around the country. 37 people, including City Council and State Assembly members, were arrested yesterday in New York city, a second in a series of planned civil disobedience actions to put pressure on the Obama administration to put a stop to SB1070, curb detentions and deportations that separate families and enact humane immigration reform. Organizers say that they will continue resisting until their demands are met.
And on May 29th, civil rights groups and immigrant activists are organizing a massive rally against Arizona’s SB1070 law. The boycott against Arizona has been put on hold for the weekend as thousands of protesters are expected to arrive from across the country to join in a march of defiance against the state. In addition to over 50,000 people, the rally will include speeches by the DREAM Act students, Rep. Gutierrez, representatives from the government of Mexico City and members of a number of indigenous communities. With marchers refusing to carry IDs, the goal is to terminate all ICE-local police initiatives and put an end to SB1070.
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