Immigration Reform Pits Rahm Emanuel Against Barack Obama

Like that of his predecessors, the immigration policy President Obama has been practicing is an uneven patchwork that has come nowhere near to adequately addressing the issue. Additionally, it is increasingly resulting in controversy between state and federal authority, tensions that are sure to come to a head some time in the near future.

Even with the passage of the DREAM Act, which allows permanent residency for immigrants who came to the country as children and have since been law-abiding members of society and which certainly marks a definite step in the right direction, we must not forget that Obama has deported more illegal aliens during his three and a half  years in office than President Bush did in his entire two-term tenure. In California alone, 75,000 illegal aliens have been deported. Many of these repatriations stemmed from what is called Secure Communities, a program Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) designed to target illegal aliens who are criminals. Originally introduced in such a way as to ostensibly give states the option to comply, the Obama administration now says that the measure will be nationally enforced by 2013. This may not come to pass, however, in light of the growing number of communities in direct opposition to it.

Most notable of the counties that have rebelled is Cook County. Rahm Emanuel, a former Chief of Staff to Obama, is the mayor of the City of Chicago, located within Cook County. A mayor spitting in the face of his former boss, the president?! Titillating stuff indeed.

Emanuel recently announced that he would like his law enforcement authorities to willfully ignore the federal government’s request, under the Secure Communities program, to hold criminals who also happen to be undocumented immigrants for an additional 48 hours so that the federal government has time to swoop in and deport them. This practice is known as applying ‘detainers.’ The federal government knows when an illegal alien has been booked because states are required to send fingerprints of detainees to the FBI, which then forwards the prints to ICE. Arguments that reference this as evidence of ICE being an overstepping of federal authority are moot because a 2001 appropriations bill previously mandated that states share information with the federal government. Instead of applying ‘detainers’ willy-nilly, Emanuel and other like-minded officials are directing their police forces to comply with ICE’s requests only when it comes to particularly violent offenders.

The pros and cons of the program, as far as I can tell, stack up like this.

Pros:
a) it narrows the war against immigration’s focus to address illegal immigrants who are criminals
b) the more controversial effects, such as the deportation of lesser offenders (aliens guilty of traffic violations, etc.), are currently being toned down.

Cons:
a) it inherently leads to increased racial profiling
      ….. b) which leads to distrust of police force
      ….. c) which leads to more crime
d) illegal aliens who are witnesses to crimes will not come forward to testify for fear of deportation
e) undocumented immigrants, who are otherwise law-abiding and could benefit our society, are deported.



Today, 66% of Americans think immigration itself is a “good thing.” Though it would be completely erroneous to imply that this indicates an equivalent percentage that support illegal immigration, the number surely demonstrates that U.S. citizens, as a whole, understand the importance that immigration has had and always will have in maintaining the health of the nation.

There is a beautiful irony in the use of states’ rights, a typically Republican tenet, being employed to combat anti-immigration policy, also a Republican core issue. But the ugly truth remains that our country needs to make a decision regarding the fates of millions of people, and the longer we deliberate, the more painful the conclusion likely will be for all involved.