Sunday, November 15, 2009
A Skeptical Analysis of DHS Secretary Napolitano's Endorsement of Immigration Reform
As Bill Hing reported on Friday, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano made a detailed statement on immigration reform to the Center for American Progress. Among other things, the Secretary stated:
"Let me be clear: when I talk about `immigration reform,' I’m referring to what I call the `three-legged stool' that includes a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers, and a firm but fair way to deal with those who are already here. That’s the way that this problem has to be solved, because we need all three aspects to build a successful system. This approach has at its heart the conviction that we must demand responsibility and accountability from everyone involved in the system: immigrants, employers and government. And that begins with fair, reliable enforcement." (emphasis added).
Many political observers and immigration rights advocates applauded Secretary Napolitano's endorsement of some kind of immigration reform. While I do hope that we see meaningful immigration reform in the next few years, it is hard for me to applaud the Secretary for making a public statement after so many months in office. Rather than strongly advocate immigration reform during these months, she instead has aggressively pursued what I have characterized as an "enforcement now, enforcement forever" strategy, in many ways just as punitive as that pursued in teh last few years of teh Bush administration. While DHS has put into place enforcement measure after enforcement measure over the last six months, the Secretary remained virtually about where, how, and when immigration reform -- other than more enforcement -- might be coming. As immigrant deaths increased daily from the ever-escalating enforcement measures, hate crimes have spiked against Latinos (citizens and immigrants alike), racial profiling of Latino citizens and immigrants in immigration and border enforcement continues unabated, and anti-immigrant, anti-Latino legislation and law enforcement actions at the state and local level proceed as they have over the last few years, Secretary Napolitano has failed to squarely address these issues but has advocated -- late in the game as I see it -- immigration reform.
I do truly hope that we see some kind of immigration reform, hopefully reform that addresses legal as well as undocumented migration. At the same time, I hope we see the Obama administration sooner or later directly address:
1. The rising death toll of Mexican citizens that is a directly attributable to U.S. policies, such as Operation Gatekeeper (San Diego) and Operation Hold-the-Line (El Paso);
2. Condemn the rising numbers of hate crimes directed at Latinos -- U.S. citizens and immigrants alike -- in the United States;
3. Condemn and prohibit the racial profiling of Latino citizens and immigrants in immigration and border enforcement; and
4. Address the continuing anti-immigrant, anti-Latino legislation and law enforcement actions at the state and local levels.