Wednesday, August 13, 2014

DACA's Exclusion of Criminals is Misplaced

Michelle Chen writes for the Guardian:

With an out-of-session Congress deadlocked over immigration reform and right-wing lawmakers hell-bent on “sealing the border”, the White House faces intense pressure to do something – anything – about immigration, after years of burying a civil rights crisis in a mire of political tone-deafness and jingoistic bombast.

Activists hope that President Obama will expand an existing program to shield undocumented youth from deportation and grant reprieves to their family members. But whatever unilateral action Obama may take, it won’t be nearly enough to offset the systematic betrayal of immigrant communities over the past six years, as the White House has dangled vague promises of reform while denying justice to millions of undocumented PEOPLE and their families.

EVEN the young people who have obtained temporary protection aren’t necessarily comforted by the prospect of more executive intervention from Obama. After watching their communities get ripped apart by incarceration and deportation, they’re now not only pressing for relief, but demanding long overdue justice.

In 2012, Obama launched his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program as a temporary reprieve for hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people who grew up in the United States. It was little more than a conditional promise from the White House not to kick them out of the country, but in a political arena that tends to demonize the undocumented as criminals or just ignore them, it was hailed as a breakthrough. Many hoped that actually comprehensive reform would eventually follow.

Two years on, Daca stands as a sadly partial success. .....

Others may be unfairly disqualified by a past court conviction. While some may think “criminals” don’t deserve legal status, in reality, using criminal records to judge relief applications perpetuates structural biases in the immigration system and the criminal justice system: a nonviolent pot offense, for instance, or an old driving-under-the-influence charge, could ultimately exclude a young person from protection. Such barriers undermine the basic purpose of deferred action – to stabilize the population and help people escape social marginalization.

In recent years, various immigration reform measures have sought to screen out “undesirables” with blemished records, ignoring the fact that immigrants are often disproportionately targeted by racial profiling, unable to afford decent legal counsel and, in some cases, denied due process in a criminal justice system that heightens penalties for non-citizens. Read more...


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