Court Upholds LAPD's Policy of Not Asking Immigration Status

Last Thursday, June 26th a California Superior court upheld the LAPD's 29-year-old policy of neither arresting people based on immigration status nor asking about immigration status during interviews. This policy, described by Police Chief William Bratton as "an essential crime-fighting tool for us," is meant to avoid discouraging the undocumented population in many LA communities from communicating with police officers and reporting crimes. Proponents of the policy's abandonment, who filed suit in April 2007, argue that it conflicts with federal and state law. While under the policy officers do alert immigration officials in the case of a suspect who has either previously been deported or is arrested for a felony/multiple misdemeanors, plaintiffs argue that illegal immigrants are repeatedly arrested rather than appropriately deported.

The judge's decision affirms that immigration law is to be applied on the federal, and not the local level. Local law enforcement officials cannot and will not be asked to act as federal immigration agents. The defendants argued, and the court agreed, that this conflation of positions is not warranted on legal grounds and is detrimental to the goals of local law enforcement.

The overturning of this lawsuit averts several troubling implications that elimination the disputed policy would have had. The role of a local police officer and that of an federal immigration agent have vastly different objectives; while the former exists "to protect and serve" residents, the latter aims to "effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws... by targeting illegal immigrants." In an area with a significant undocumented population, these roles are often at odds with each other. To ask that police officers assume the duties of immigration agents is to cast them into a confused role that ineffectively pursues conflicting goals. Furthermore, incorporating these duties into local law enforcement greatly increases the risk of racial profiling in pursuit of undocumented residents.

The court's decision to uphold the LAPD's longstanding policy marks a victory for security in these communities. As one of its six core values, the Opportunity Agenda holds security to be vital to our human dignity. Without safe and healthy living conditions, it becomes overwhelmingly difficult for residents to access any of the other opportunity that society has to offer. To put local police officers in a position that undermines their ability to serve their communities as a whole would be to betray a fundamental commitment to equality, security, and community. With its policy on immigrants intact, the LAPD can go forth in its goal to "build safer communities throughout the City of Los Angeles."

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

*    Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda, has written an op-ed for  The piece, titled "Challenge and Community in the Heartland," discusses the horrific effects of the recent immigration raid on the community of Postville, Iowa:

After the Postville raid, half of the local school system's 600 students were absent. Many businesses were shuttered and churches left empty. And many families and friends were separated. But, unlike this month's terrible storms and twisters, the Postville raid could have happened differently, or not at all.

The raid is an example of the U.S. government officials using quick, destructive tactics to shift attention away from the fact that the federal legislature has been incapable of passing meaningful immigration reform. Moreover, the government did not arrest any of the managers from Agriprocessors, the company that was responsible for the Postville plant, even though the Iowa Department of Labor found numerous workplace safety violations there:
A federal enforcement strategy concerned with public safety and accountability would have focused on these alleged practices which, if true, pose a real threat to economic opportunity within the state. And it would fix our broken immigration system so that immigrant workers can be realistically and fairly held accountable.

*    The Night of 1000 Conversations is taking place tonight, June 19.  The event consists of thousands of individuals across the U.S. getting together in their local communities and discussing the detrimental effects of the anti-immigration actions of the Department of Homeland Security.

*    A June 19 article that appeared in The Washington Post details how a local sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona dispatched his deputies into predominantly Hispanic communities and told them to arrest anyone who could not immediately prove he or she was a legal U.S. resident.  Mary Rose Wilcox, a local supervisor and longtime Hispanic activist said:

All he is doing is going after everybody with a brown face.  There's no doubt in my mind that this is racial profiling. None.

The inability of the federal government to enact meaningful immigration reform has forced state and local governments to address the issue.  According to the Post article, more than 240 immigration reform measures have been passed in the last year.  However, the inaction of the federal government has also allowed anti-immigrant officials like the Maricopa County sheriff to enact their own extremist policies of racial profiling without any regulation from political leaders.

To learn more about the importance of protecting immigrants' rights, take a look at The Opportunity Agenda fact sheet, Immigrants and Opportunity.

*    A posting on Of América addresses the increasingly cruel treatment of immigrants held at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities.  The treatment of people detained at these facilities is being compared to the treatment of people detained at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay:

In the case of both the military and immigrant detention facilities, says [Amrit] Singh, [staff attorney at the ACLU,] the Bush Administration has used national security imperatives to deny many of the Freedom of Information Act requests she and her colleagues have filed in their efforts to find out things like how people are being treated in detention, under what conditions did detainees die and what kind of medical treatment they are receiving.

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"The Internet and the Election: There is Something Happening Here"

To say that Americans have had a love affair with technology is the most humdrum of cliches. The idea that new technologies will not only make life easier for us, but will help bring us together as a people, is not new theme in American folklore. Long before there was the Web, or the radio, or even a developed telephone network, American philosophers and social critics dreamed of how new technologies might transform us, make us into a community in all of our diversity. In 1892, as a relatively young man, George Herbert Mead, a pragmatic philosopher in the American grain, wrote a letter to his wife's parents. It's worth quoting.

"But it seems to me clearer every day that the telegraph and locomotive are the great spiritualizers of society because they bind man and man so close together that the interest of the individual must be more completely the interest of all day by day. And America in pushing this spiritualizing of nature is doing more than all in bringing the day when every man will be my neighbor and all life shall be saturated with the divine life." (See, Gary A. Cook, George Herbert Mead, The Making of a Social Pragmatist, p. 31)

This relatively youthful Mead thought that the locomotive and the telegraph would bring us closer together. And so they did in their own ways. Now the Internet appears to be doing so in a qualitatively different fashion. But before moving on to discuss the Internet's place in the current election, it's worth reminding ourselves about the dark side of our commitment to technology. For example, we have recently been promised nearly bloodless wars in which burnished flying machines, decked out with starship instrumentation, will seek out and destroy our enemies. The Iraq nightmare began with the promise that high tech would produce "Shock and Awe," and a quick end to war.

But in this election, the prospect of utilizing technology to make Americans feel as if they are part of a national political community, is no longer merely a fantasy of the early devotees of Apple computers. Although it has been said many times and in many ways, and in ways that were suspect, it does seem that the Internet has finally come of age. No doubt Obama would not be where he is today without his campaign's creative use of Internet technologies and software. (See, Joshua Green's piece, "The Amazing Money Machine"<> and Marc Ambinder's "His Space" in The Atlantic binder-obama

Yet technology by itself is blind. Obama's experience as a community organizer has let him frame how the technology could be used. He and his people have pioneered paths for merging the virtual and the real worlds, for moving from on-line communities to real world communities and back. What happens on the Web doesn't just stay on the Web. However, it's worth keeping in mind that Obama is part of an older American tradition, one that supported the development of technology without worshiping it. And one that spoke a great deal about community and social responsibility. Mead was part of this camp. And so was his good friend John Dewey. They were called progressives in the early 20th century. They were on the non-Marxist Left. (Yes, we once had a vital non-Marxist Left.) Sometimes we forget that this tradition preceded New Deal Liberalism.

What is happening is not just about Obama and his campaign. It is about words: their profusion, polyphony, and heartfeltness. People are writing to each other, again and again. And not just to friends (or one's wife's parents), but to strangers. Have Americans ever written so much in such a short space of time? Do all the words in all of the (paper) letters that Americans have written since the Declaration of Independence equal 1/10 of the words on the Web in the last five years? (No doubt, someone, somewhere, has made a calculation.) Commentaries abound from people who never had a voice in the mainstream media. They talk, argue, commiserate, plan, plot, comment, organize, and vent. Yes, a lot of junk, some hate, but also speaking and listening. Will this conversation resolve economic inequalities and racial divides? Of course not. As a matter of fact, we will have to work to make sure that new technologies don't increase class divisions or centralize power in unimagined ways. Yet, all in all, we are engaged in an impressive conversation. It may not be the New England Town Hall, but for a country of 300 million, it's an interesting way to help promote political communities and community.

For more on this and related topics,

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Tenants, Landlords, Urban Community Displacements, Broken Families, Gas Prices, Tears

The New York Times has
yet another article
today about the wave
of urban mass displacements that are sweeping American
cities as gas prices go up.

Seeing gold in low and moderate income urban neighborhoods,
investment companies are buying up literally millions of
apartment complexes, including many with rent stabilized
apartments, and making it known to investors that they
intend to increase turnover to increase rents, which are
sometimes very low considering their geographical locations
near urban employers.

As many residents of these urban neighborhoods are tenants
who do not own, and many are working class or fixed income
and have nowhere they can afford to go, they need to be
displaced somehow first to free up the valuable real estate.

This is called 'churning' in the real estate business, but its really a form of economic
cleansing. It destroys families and communities as surely as
a hurricane like Hurricane Katrina can, leaving urban wastelands
of unaffordable 'half million dollar' and up condo housing.

Long-term tenants in stabilized apartments or longtime renters who pay below market rate are being expressly targeted as city governments are overwhelmed and overloaded with complaints.

Washington has given this the green light as it has let it be known that it opposes rent stabilization
ordinances and the whole concept of public housing
'on principle'.

This is going to be a HUGE issue in the coming decades as gas prices continue to rise. Urban land will become more and more valuable, especially if it can be sold unencumbered, i.e. cleared of renters.

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Because I'm on an immigration kick...

So, I've been writing a lot about immigration, mainly because I've been frustrated with how the immigration debate has been framed these past few years. In my last diary, I posted a video about an undocumented immigrant named Juan.

I was particularly interested in the comments that stated that Juan should "wait in line" and get his papers.

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