Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) recently attempted to block the deportation of an illegal alien who'd been put in deportation proceedings, and the Department of Homeland Security gave in. He recounts it at the Huffington Post, at the same time as promoting a very bad immigration policy (link).
His tale concerns woman in Alabama who'd been stopped by local police for a moving violation (not turning her headlights on, which needless to say could be quite dangerous). Her son and husband are U.S. citizens, but she's been here illegally for seven years (since she was 12). That's when Gutierrez jumped into action like a crooked Superman:
Local clergy and advocates alerted me because Martha's case is precisely the type of case that President Obama's policy of exercising "prosecutorial discretion" under existing immigration law is designed to clear up. Those with no criminal record, deep ties to the community through family or their length of time in the community, are supposed to be the lowest priority under our record-setting deportation program that is designed to target serious criminals for identification and removal. I fought hard, side by side with advocates and clergy across the country, to push the Obama Administration to adopt a policy to not deport low priorities so that our limited resources are used on high value criminal immigrants.
Now, with states like Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and others passing laws to put more of their immigrant residents into deportation proceedings, this policy at the federal level to prioritize real criminals ahead of parents, students and working men and women, is all the more important.
So how did the policy work in this case? I happened to have participated in a meeting that Thursday between the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. We were scheduled to get an update on the deportation prioritization plan and other immigration issues, but I used the opportunity to ask the Secretary why Martha was still detained after three nights in jail.
Eventually, later that day, in fact, ICE officers came to pick Martha up, ran the appropriate background check on her and then placed her in deportation proceedings with a date to report to ICE authorities one month later. She was released without bail late Thursday, having been in jail since Monday.
But why place her in deportation proceedings at all? She is an asset to her community and certainly an asset to her husband and infant child -- both U.S. citizens. Deporting her with or without her family makes no sense and is not in our national interest. And, given that we have reached our maximum system capacity for annual deportations at about 400,000 people a year, using one of our deportation slots on Martha and not a serious criminal makes no sense, either.
Late the next day, Friday, I received a call from an ICE official in Washington telling me that the deportation case against Martha had been dropped. No court date, no reporting to ICE for a supervisory visit in a month, just cancelation of the deportation case.
If you ask me, that is how our deportation policy should work. Although it took the better part of a week -- and a conversation between the Secretary of Homeland Security and a persistent member of Congress -- in the end, mother, child, and husband were back about their peaceful, productive lives as they should have been.
Martha provides us with an example of why Gutierrez' policy won't work: she came here or was brought here at the age of 12 and whoever initiated that knew that they could probably succeed at living here illegally. Now, Martha and those like her are going to tell all their friends in their home countries about the DHS's policies: as long as you avoid major crimes and have some sort of hook (such as a U.S. citizen child) you probably won't get deported. Heck, you might even find a corrupt, hyper-ethno-centric hack like Luis Gutierrez to go to bat for you. The Obama immigration policy is a recipe for even more illegal immigration now or in the future when the economy improves.
Martha's case certainly might pull some heartstrings, and that's why Gutierrez is involved. The problem is that there are millions of illegal aliens in the U.S. in a similar position and unless we're going to declare something approaching open borders we have to deport them.
Deporting someone isn't like putting them into prison: they're just returning to their home countries. That would also encourage those countries to take care of their own people and it would discourage them from using the U.S. as a safety valve.
Gutierrez goes on:
If you ask Republicans, however, a great injustice had occurred because a deportable immigrant was not deported. They have been badgering Homeland Security and ICE over the President's policy for months. Republican Senators and Representatives have pushed the "HALT" Act (H.R. 2487/S. 1380), legislation to take all discretion away from the President and his administration until a new President is elected. And they have threatened a contempt of Congress hearing against the Secretary for not turning over the name of every immigrant like Martha who was passed over for deportation in order to deport bigger fish and serious threats.
Note that Republicans have not used their time to explore ways in which: A) Martha (or immigrants like her) could come here legally in the first place; B) immigrants in Martha's situation could earn legal status; or C) how Martha could apply for legal status by virtue of her husband's citizenship without incurring a mandatory exile from the U.S. of 10 years. Doing any or all of those things would help solve the problem, not stir up political controversy over illegal immigration to weaken the President, which is, first and foremost, the goal of most House Republicans.
While not all are, most GOP leaders are just as corrupt as Gutierrez: they aren't big fans of immigration enforcement because it cuts into the profits of their benefactors. Regarding the second paragraph, millions of Mexicans and others have come here through (legal) chain migration, and there are plenty of very good reasons not to give in to Gutierrez's B and C. Both would encourage even more illegal immigration and give racial demagogues like Gutierrez even more power.
1/6/12 UPDATE: Note how Gutierrez' demand C directly above matches the new Obama administration rule. Did the Obama administration do what Gutierrez demanded on that too?
Wed, 01/04/2012 - 16:04 · Importance: 4