Monday, June 27, 2011

Tepid Immigration Policy Comes to a Boil

Stung by three states pulling out of its Secure Communities dragnet of a program to catch illegal immigrants and deport them, along with increasing political pressure from immigration reform activists and the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, the Obama Administration is now urging "prosecutorial discretion" in kicking undocumented people out of the country.

As is the case with so many of this administration's policies, this latest "compromise" in immigration enforcement is pleasing nobody.  Immigration agents are up in arms about a new directive sent out last week by IME chief John Morton, instructing them how to pick and choose who to arrest and deport, and who to let slide.  Their union claims they are being put in the untenable position of  breaking the law by arresting and charging some people but letting others go.  A unanimous no-confidence vote against Morton has been taken over the new guidelines.

And then Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Lamar Alexander reacted  by announcing legislation to prevent the president from ever granting amnesty by executive order to DREAM Act candidates.  This is the same guy who was all for a humane path to citizenship last century when John McCain was for it too. 

Obama could sign that executive order today to give immediate protection to thousands of undocumented people who can demonstrate they have lived, worked or studied in the United States since childhood.  He has thus far refused to do so, again preferring that the problem be solved legislatively. (and now, through an under-the-radar internal IME memo). Not a chance of that happening congressionally, and he knows it. Now, if Alexander has his way and his preventive amnesty-freezing bill goes through, that decision will be conveniently wrested from the president's hands.  Another case of "I really wanted to, but the Republicans wouldn't let me."

Instead the IME guy is being thrown under the bus by both his boss and his employees, and the DREAM act candidates continue living their nightmare in legal limbo, counting on IME agents to become selectively humane if they feel like it on any given day.  More stasis we can all believe in.

The immigration debate took on new poignant meaning last week with the publication in The New York Times of two stories.  One was a first-person account by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has just "come out of the closet" about his illegal status, explaining he just can't stand the deception any more. His own newspaper, The Washington Post, had refused to publish it, probably out of consideration of its own legal position.  Another NYT article chronicled the arrest and imprisonment of an "illegal alien" who also happens to be a decorated Iraq War veteran.  His crime?  Failing to tell the military that a long time ago he applied for a passport but never completed the process.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is holding a  hearing on the DREAM Act tomorrow, with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan expected to testify.  Can't wait to watch the uncomfortable wriggling by the Democrats and  hear the self-righteous xenophobic ranting of the Republicans in the next episode of Cancel Each Other Out Theater.


John in Lafayette said...

One simply has to ask, cui bono?

The answer is pretty simple: giant agribusiness, the restaurant industry (in which I worked for 30 years), and the meat packing industry. All of these industries benefit greatly from having a large pool of cheap, unskilled labor that won't dare try to form a union or run to OSHA over unsafe working conditions. The employers also save on payroll taxes, medical benefits, and pretty much anything else a citizen might have the nerve to demand.

Further, these industries all have powerful lobbies with millions in campaign contributions at the ready.

So we get the two parties dancing this delicate pas de deux in which the Republicans claim to be for throwing the undocumented out and the Democrats claim to be in favor of granting residency, and nothing ever happens either way. The aforementioned industries benefit greatly, and the campaign cash keeps flowing. The only people who suffer are the undocumented and the citizens who won't take the jobs the undocumented hold because they no longer pay enough.

A more cynical person might believe that this state of affairs is exactly what both the Democrats and Republicans actually want.

Karen Garcia said...

I would be among the more cynical people. You are right about the Agribusiness lobby wielding enormous power. And if you want to read some truly ugly comments from otherwise self-described "liberals" take a gander at the most highly recommended comments on any immigration article or editorial in The Times. This is one area where the reactionary elements of both Democratic and Republican parties seem to wholeheartedly agree with one another.

New York may be tops in political graft and corruption, but it's also been moving in the right direction on civil rights issues lately, having both pulled out of "Secure Communities" and approving marriage equality in the space of one month. Next up - the new Democratic Atty General follows in Spitzer's footsteps and goes after Wall Street.

John in Lafayette said...


The internet is a bad medium for sarcasm; I hope mine came through in that last line.

This issue is a perfect example of how corporations have managed to dupe the large majority of the public into creating a set of circumstances that works to their interest and against the interest of the very majority they've duped (the "benefits" of cutting taxes for the wealthy being the more obvious example).

The immigration issue is actually pretty simple. ALL workers - both citizens and the undocumented - would benefit from amnesty. If everyone working in the country illegally were made legal they would have to be paid minimum wage, they would have to have their payroll taxes paid, and their workplaces would have to be made safe and clean. The undocumented would be able to get drivers' licenses, and therefore insurance.

Also, by forcing employers to adhere to the law, the jobs that "Americans just won't do" (industry's standard excuse for hiring the undocumented) will all of a sudden become palatable. The only people who beneifit from the current state of affairs are ADM, Monsanto, the members of the National Restaurant Association, and Hormel. And, oh yes, we can't forget the members of Congress whose pockets are lined by these corporations. And that, of course, is exactly why the status is quo, and will likely remain so.

Simply deciding not to prosecute those here illegally will not fix the problem. In fact, if Obama gets that through his corporate masters will be overjoyed. The undocumented have to be made legally whole.

Anonymous said...

The law, as written, should be enforced until a majority agrees to change it. The President is not our Emperor no mater what he thinks. Everyone has the right to work to change the law, until then enforce it equally on everyone. This policy of enforcement by "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" only undermines respect for the rule of law.


Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, I've read that crops (Valdalia onions and blueberries) in Georgia are rotting in the fields due to the shortage of agricultural workers. Agri is crying over the losses - opponents feel the dollars lost are being made up by savings in public services.

The consequences should continue to grow. I wonder if they might turn the tide.


VLT said...

Once again, the Great Orator could be using his bully pulpit to explain in simple and clear terms what is REALLY going on behind the curtain. Lafayette did it in one paragraph. But per his past leadership, the Spineless Wonder won't. Too bad the Prez just won't take his one term in office and LEAVE to join his corporate sponsors in the private sector, making way for a true Democrat to run on the ticket.

Jay - Ottawa said...

// And if you want to read some truly ugly comments from otherwise self-described "liberals" take a gander at the most highly recommended comments on any immigration article or editorial in The Times. This is one area where the reactionary elements of both Democratic and Republican parties seem to wholeheartedly agree with one another. //

It’s now 1:17 PM and I don’t find it necessary to go that far to find a sample of the reactionary element.

As for the part about enforcing the laws already on the books, I’m all for that. How about having our prosecutors working from the top down for a change? That’s what I would call “prosecutorial discretion.” I’ve heard big shots in agribiz, banking and the restaurant empire – and, oh yes, big oil too -- break a lot more laws and do a lot more damage than the illegals trimming meat for packers or greens for golfers. Years pass; nothing happens to them. Too big to jail.

Maybe NY’s new Atty Gen Schneiderman will remind us how it’s done – you know, enforcing the law, from the top down – as he follows Spitzer’s footsteps into the fabulous corner offices of Wall Street.

Some laws that ought to be on the books, just can’t seem to get there. How come? You know, multi-faceted solutions with fairness. Like the one John describes above about fair minimum wage laws helping everybody, the legals as well as the illegals. Our political stars just can’t seem to get in alignment.

As for the Tepid TLOTE, he reminds me of the sheriff before the jailhouse door as another lynch mob gathers. He and his deputies can be counted on to do the jailhouse side step, in unison and moving always to the right. His defense for not defending the defenseless: “Give me a break. I did the best I could under the circumstances.”

Pragmatic? Cool? Or what Lincoln called a bad case of the “slows.”

Valarie's right. TLOTE should step down so that someone else can use the presidential powers accumulating cobwebs and rust.

Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gregory said...

Sadly I'm afraid this is one of those issues which brings up fear in the populace and therefore cold feet in the short-sighted politicians.

In that respect it is similar to marriage equality.

So while we wait for piecemeal legislation and nasty court fights - innumerable lives are damaged.

So much for audacity...