Improve immigrant policies and rights
Published: Monday, September 5, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 5, 2011 19:09
Our immigration system is broken. There's no denying that. I have immigrant friends who can attest to that. Unfortunately, recent steps toward addressing immigration policy have been focused on punishing and deporting immigrants in this nation rather than embracing them.
At the state level, the policies have been extreme and dangerous, such as Arizona's SB 1070, which has been accused of mandating racial profiling. In the last session, the Republican-led Florida Legislature tried to replicate SB 1070 in our state. And at the national level, we have programs such as Secure Communities, which is a program I feel should be removed or drastically reformed.
According to the Los Angeles Times, SComm is a program designed to target and deport "serious convicted criminals," who are also undocumented. Run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the program works with local officials to identify these criminals. The New York Times describes the process, stating fingerprints recorded by state and local police are sent to the Department of Homeland Security, in addition to the FBI. The DHS records immigration policies and can conclude whether an individual booked in jail has also violated immigration laws.
The main objections toward SComm revolve not around its purpose, but its implementation. Most people agree that deporting "serious convicted criminals," such as murderers, rapists and violent criminals is OK. However, and this might come as a shock to some of you, not all illegal immigrants are murderers, rapists or violent criminals. Many of them are actually law-abiding non-citizens. The Huffington Post reports that in the 2010 fiscal year, SComm assisted in the deportation of almost 400,000 people in the United States. Had they all been violent criminals, my view on SComm would be different; however, according to Yahoo! News, about half of those deported had no criminal records aside from civil immigration violations.
Being an illegal immigrant does not make you more likely to commit serious crimes; in fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, studies report that illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than natural-born citizens. Opponents of granting amnesty and implementing immigration reform often dehumanize immigrants, as if they are all violent criminals and a threat to our communities. But what they overlook is the fact that illegal immigrants are part of our community. We are a nation of nations, and lacking proper paperwork does not mean you are not a part of the American community.
The Obama administration has taken a step to signal they agree. On Aug. 18, the administration announced it will review deportations case by case, allowing many undocumented immigrants without criminal records to stay in the U.S. and apply for work permits. Those cases would be considered "low-priority" and would be closed to focus on "high-priority" cases. This change of policy could result in securing thousands of immigrant families, students and future leaders.
But we must remember that not deporting is not the same as granting citizenship. SComm needs to be removed, and the Obama administration needs to continue to act and do all it can through the executive branch to keep moving forward on immigration reform: providing a path to citizenship for illegal – and legal – immigrants. Presently, 11 million immigrants have embraced America, and they deserve to be recognized as such.