Weekly Immigration Wire: Enforcement Creates Aura of Criminality

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

The Latino/a community has had ample reason to hope that President Obama would take on immigration reform in a humane manner. While Obama is undeniably centrist in his political approach, and has long been fond of language stressing punitive solutions to the immigration issue, he certainly seems to understand that "America is changing and we can't be threatened by it." Enforcement policies are becoming a threat, not only to immigrants, but the country at large.

AlterNet picks up on a position paper authored by the Sanctuary's founding editors (of which I am one) on the Luis Ramirez killing and subsequent court case. The article ties the crime and Shanendoah jury's decision to a larger pattern of dehumanization aimed at Latinos/as, and analyzes "[h]ow effortlessly a subhuman category of being is constructed and subsequently reviled."

It's a disturbing lens for examining current immigration-related news, but useful. If a person is deemed criminal by nature of their appearance, name, and culture, then the larger public will feel comfortable treating them in ways they would never condone for themselves. This process unfolds when the nation is made fearful by hack punditry and politicians who continually employ aggressive verbiage and dishonest framing of the realities we face.

Nina Jacinto, writing for WireTap, thinks it crucial that communities of color "continue the conversation about Luis Ramirez, in order to find some kind of justice" in the situation. "[R]acial injustice may continue to exist subversively in many parts of the country," Jacinto writes, "But in many areas, hate crimes against people of color go beyond language, can become violent, and end in death."

Using a lens that positions immigrants as the Other and less-than, it's easy to understand why some staunchly oppose the DREAM act, which grants temporary citizenship to people brought here as children, who have lived in the U.S. at least five years, received high school educations and are of "good moral character," as Public News Service reports.  Supporters of the DREAM act view its opposition as cruel; a punishment leveled on children who have done nothing wrong. But if one had no interest in seeing those children become an educated part of U.S. culture, opposing the DREAM ACT makes perfect sense.

It is hard to make sense, however, of continuing enforcement measures that clearly wreak havoc on a state's economic well being. Arizona is harming its own economy via an extremely heavy-handed enforcement approach towards communities that keep the state healthy. Doug Ramsey interviewed Alessandra Soler-Meetze, director of ACLU-Arizona for Public News Service. She claims that "[w]e have relied on punitive measures that have targeted not just recent immigrants, but long-time legal residents and even U.S. citizens, simply because of the color of their skin." This creates an aura of discrimination that bleeds consequences into surrounding communities.

This aura is visible in the comment threads of almost any immigration-related article online. Commenters show nothing but hostility towards mothers who are losing their children and jobs. They demonstrate absolutely no empathy. This atmosphere is cultivated by enforcement measures like those enacted in Arizona. As Leslie Savan writes in AlterNet, Mexicans have been "the prime target of the most rancid typecasting" in the discussion that plays out in the media. And "once the type has been cast, it has jumped easily to Latinos of any origins."

A year has passed since the devastating Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Postville, Iowa. New America Media's A Year Later Iowa Raid Haunts Immigrants covers how some workers were treated during the raids, and what their lives are like in the aftermath. Veronica Cumez, a "soft-spoken 33-year-old mother of three" was hit on the head by a ICE agent during the raid, then yanked from her hiding place. Now, as she awaits the final outcome of her case, she lives wearing an electronic ankle bracelet that reminds her of her status at every turn.

Besides anxiety, loneliness is also a major ingredient of her new life. In the weeks and months after the raid, an entire network of kin from her village in Guatemala, San José Calderas, including three brothers-in-law, were either arrested and deported or abandoned Postville.

In 2006, Barack Obama confessed a limit to his own mental prowess:

It's hard to imagine that we want to live in a country where we would have police and immigration officials coming into people's homes and taking away the father of a family, sending him back to Mexico, leaving a mother and child behind.
But this is where we live. And when the talk is constantly about how borders are unsafe, how Mexicans are bringing Swine Flu to our communities, or how immigrants are taking jobs away from U.S. citizens, of course events will play out violently.

In U.S. Women Migrants Protest Abuse in County Jails, Feministing's Courtney Martin writes of how one woman's arm was allegedly broken by Maricopa County Sheriff's guards. And in a letter signed by many women (one who tells of her jaw being broken during an ICE raid) the situation is made starkly clear. "Please help us," plead the women. "[W]e're in a tunnel without end, treated like dogs."

And yet, Democrats hem and haw, afraid to take a firm moral stance on what so many humans in the nation are living through. Less than a week after the annual May Day marches, and at the end of President Obama's first 100 days, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "carefully skirted repeated questions" about whether the forthcoming Immigration reform should include "broader opportunities for legalization of the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the United States," according to the Colorado Independent.

The administration views the immigration issue as "controversial and politically dicey." It's too bad that our representative are not comfortable coming out in strong support of human rights as they apply to all these situations.

There is a major problem with continuing a public dialogue stressing dangerous borders, plays tough with phrases like "going to the back of the line" and rounding up and deporting people. These "solutions" ignore one of the most important causes of the problems. There is an imbalance in the economic exhange between the U.S. and nations like Mexico.

Fortunately, there are those who fight such injustice. You will find these people at the very roots of the situation, such as students who start hunger strikes to protest the "violence and terrorism" aimed at the Latino/a community and hope to inspire "those in higher power to say that they can't close their eyes to the injustices we see day after day."

And as Yes! Magazine reports, May Day marches filled the streets of over 125 cities this year. Author Colette Cosner reminds us that the "hope of the May Day marches resides not in the media coverage nor the government's lack of response, but rather in how it connected people in the community in their efforts for further actions."

Finally, it is often mothers who fight the hardest against the injustices that affect their families. RaceWire's Julianne Hing reports on Elvira Arellano, who was deported in 2007. Now in Mexico, Arellano is running for a seat in the Mexican Congress. “I am going to seek laws in Congress that protect women, and also that protect undocumented Central Americans who are treated like criminals in Mexico,” Arellano said.

 

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration.

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Tags: Barack Obama, Discrimination, dream act, enforcement policies, ICE raids, immigration Newsladder, Immigration Reform, Janet Napolitano, latino community, luis ramirez, marches, may day, migrants, Newsladder, postville iowa, racial injustice, undocumented workers (all tags)

Comments

2 Comments

Re: Weekly Immigration Wire

Thanks for this update on the immigration issue that the Republicans thought would gain them the White House in 2009. Of course it fizzled and I think it fizzled because there were more important things on the minds of Americans.

But it also fizzled because it alienated immigrants and the children of immigrants, and who, except for our native American citizens, is not one? I can't see Obama doing anything while in office, centrist or not, that would throw this strong block of American voters under the bus, in order to satisfy some law and order zenophobic types.

by MainStreet 2009-05-14 09:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Weekly Immigration Wire

PS: If the Congress strips the punitive aspects of the Kennedy-McCain Act out of it, it is there ready for passage in a Democratic majority Senate and House. There's no reason to wait for further debate.

by MainStreet 2009-05-14 09:12AM | 0 recs

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