It’s happening! Reversing ‘cowboy-style’ anti-immigrant attitudes, laws like the ones enacted in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, and programs such as Secure Communities, that unfairly target Latinos and Asians and bring about massive deportations of non-criminals and family separation is starting to click throughout the country.
Just this week, in cities like Chicago and states like California, notable advances in Anti-Arizona-like legislation were celebrated.
California is the first state to step up and pass a bill (TRUST Act) instructing police to release undocumented immigrants if they haven’t committed serious crimes — instead of handing them over to the federal government. The bill is a rejection of the federally-imposed Secure Communities, it’s a first for the nation and was sponsored by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. The bill goes now to the governor for signature.
“In the wake of the Supreme Court decision on Arizona v. United States, faith, labor, and immigrant rights groups in over 12 cities are coming together to demand local officials take their own initiative to turn the tide on Arizona-style laws and federal deportation programs like “Secure Communities,” says says Sarahi Uribe, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who is organizing several events across the country to promote legislature such as Ammiano’s.
California had seen an increase in deportations since the launching of S-Comm.
“We congratulate the California Senate on its leadership in passing this legislation, which is a model for states seeking to reject Arizona’s approach of immigration-based policing,” says Jennie Pasquarella, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, in an ACLU statement.
“Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” Ammiano said in a statement after the Senate floor vote. “The bill also limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety.”
And yesterday in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the introduction of the “Safe Families Ordinance.” The ordinance clarifies and extends Chicago’s existing policy of creating a firewall between federal civil immigration law enforcement and the relationship the City of Chicago, and especially the Chicago Police Department, has with its residents.
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus applauded the mayor’s vision that sets Chicago apart from other jurisdictions, like Arizona.
“The City of Chicago has been at the forefront of U.S. cities in how it handles the reality that thousands upon thousands of immigrants, families and entrepreneurs are seeking opportunity in our city and the reality that the United States has failed to modernize its immigration system for decades. We no longer have a reliable and responsive legal immigration system. Too many individuals are faced with the impossible choice of abandoning their families or going around our legal system because they can find no way through it to meet their responsibilities as spouses and parents. And we give almost no opportunity to immigrants here illegally to take any action that would allow them to earn legal status,” Gutierrez said.
The Congressman also stated the difference is how states and cities are dealing with the consequences of the federal government and the Congress not facing Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
“In Arizona, they deal with this reality by enacting laws to sanction racial profiling and by condoning the irrational acts of cowboys — sometimes ones who happen to be Sheriffs and carry guns — and set them loose on immigrants or anyone who looks or sounds like an immigrant. We know from the experience in Arizona, Alabama, and many other places that this undermines public safety, wastes precious and scarce law enforcement resources and weakens the bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve and protect. In Chicago, we do things a little differently because we put public safety above political stunts, and we put creating a united, cohesive society over trying to draw dividing lines or driving political wedges,” Gutierrez explained.
The ordinance protects everyone because it allows anyone who witnesses a crime, who knows about criminal activity and anyone who wants to make the city safer to come forward and share that information with police. Most importantly, it targets police resources on criminals and threats and minimizes the amount of city resources devoted to holding non-criminals and non-threats, just because they were flagged in a federal database as possibly violating federal civil laws.
Gutierrez also said that instead of dealing with immigrants by using a ‘building a wall and rounding them up’ approach, the country needs to look forward. “We need laws that match the reality that people are here, people are coming, and that every level of society is more efficient if the federal government sets up a functioning legal system to deal with that reality and keeps up with our modern society,” he said.
A growing number of cities have enacted these progressive policies, including Washington DC, Santa Clara, CA, and Cook County, Illinois and more.
In a press conference in 2011, ICE Director John Morton said that that they estimate there are about one million undocumented immigrants with criminal records and that those individuals are their main target for deportation.
Per the rule of prosecutorial discretion, here’s the deal: if of an estimated population of eleven million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., only one million falls under the “criminal” label; that means that ninety percent should not be the targeted or profiled or deported, including about one million youth that would fall under the deferred action policy or the DREAM Act criteria; and, even better, could qualify to legalize their migratory status once they comply with the list of requirements specified in most comprehensive immigration reform bills brought forth in the past.
I think this new mentality involving fairness, practicality and safety is where the country is finally heading. If Congress could say: ‘ampay me salvo y salvo a todos mis Compañeros,’ before Obama’s first term is over, it would be fantastic. If not, deals like the one we are seeing in California will definitely change the tide, set the tone for a grown-up conversation about immigration and eventually open the hand and turn it from a menacing fist to a welcoming gesture.