Sunday, August 2, 2009

Obama on Immigration: Enforcement Now, Enforcement Forever?

A number of immigration advocates -- as well as some law professors -- are beginning to worry about the future of true immigration reform in the Obama administration. The latest expression of concern comes from a mass e-mail sent out by the Mexican American Political Association:


Protests against President Obama's immigration enforcement policies are beginning to sweep the country. In some areas the protests are directed at Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the instrument of the enforcement policy execution, and in other areas President Obama is clearly the target. Some activists have argued that the main criticism and advocacy for a moratorium of such enforcement should be directed at Napolitano, the cabinet member responsible for defining the policy and taking it operational. Others argue that Obama is ultimately responsible for the policy and has in his hands the executive discretion to immediately put a stop to such rampant enforcement. The growing and pressing demand is for an ENFORCEMENT MORATORIUM until fair and humane immigration reform is enacted.

No other presidential administration since 1986 has enforced employer sanctions through the named I-9 audits of personnel files of employers as broadly and efficiently as has the Obama administration. The system of employment verification, short-named eVerify, which allows employers to verify the legal status of their employees against federal government databases, has taken on a new vigorous life under Obama. The fall-out of such enforcement has been massive terminations of long and short-term immigrant workers from their employment during the worst economic down-turn in the country since the 1930s. In one company alone, American Apparel, the largest clothing manufacturing firm in the U.S. with over 10,000 employees, an estimated 1,800 workers are listed for termination. The multiplier factor of Latino family size results in a devastating economic impact on close to 10,000 lives in the Los Angeles region.

Some have exclaimed that the efficiency of these "desk-top" ICE raids and deportations under this administration mirrors the efficiency with which candidate Obama ran his presidential campaign. These raids are more pervasive, sweeping, pernicious, and devastating in terms of the numbers of individuals impacted than anything executed under President George Bush.

To the degree that the Obama administration declares that it is a crime to work, and pursues and persecutes those workers who are employed in millions of companies throughout America - making incredible economic contributions by their labor and paying the corresponding taxes - than the policy of this president is one of criminalizing immigrant workers and treating them as nothing less than common criminals. This is anathema to all that candidate Obama promised on the campaign trail, which now clearly contradicts the actions of President Obama. Which Obama is to be believed?


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