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David Bacon, friend of MIRA and author of “Illegal People,” responds to Supreme Court Ruling

26 June 2012 No Comment
excerpt from the author’s new book, The Right Not to Migrate
June 26, 2012

In the meantime, workplace raids and firings have become part of an overall program for increasing immigration enforcement. One of its most bitterly fought elements is the growing connection between police departments and immigration authorities. Under President Bush, the federal government began implementing “287g” agreements, under which local police departments shared information and turned over to immigration agents people arrested for even minor traffic violations.

In a federal program called “Secure Communities” ICE  began signing agreements with state and local law enforcement bodies, requiring them to turn over the fingerprints of anyone with whom they came into contact, and holding people for deportation at ICE request, even if they haven’t been charged with a crime. The Obama administration claimed that it was only seeking criminals for deportation, and that participation in the program was voluntary.  But when New York state and Massachusetts formally refused to participate, DHS announced that participation in Secure Communities was mandatory, and implemented the program everywhere.

In practice, this increased cooperation led to the detention of hundreds of thousands of immigrants with no criminal record, who were held simply because they were undocumented. Deportations skyrocketed to over a million people in the first two and a half years of the Obama administration. A rising wave of protest met this wave of deportations.  In response, the administration called for the passage of “comprehensive immigration reform” as its alternative to criminalization and mass removals – essentially using repression to advance a corporate immigration reform program.

Increased cooperation in the end led to the loss of the government’s own suit against Arizona’s SB 1070, when in June 2012 the Supreme Court struck down some sections of the law but upheld the provision that encourages racial profiling.  The court struck down those sections that make it a state crime for an immigrant not to carry a visa, and a crime for an undocumented person to apply for work or be present in Arizona.  But the court upheld the law’s most controversial section, that directs police to question any person they stop about their immigration status if they think the person appears undocumented, as well as any person they arrest.

The court said that while Federal authority over immigration law invalidated the measures it overturned, the Federal government itself had invited local law enforcement to question people about their status.  The court cited the 287g agreements and the Secure Communities program.  Familia Latina Unida in Chicago, an organization close to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, angrily blamed the Obama administration for sabotaging its own case: “We lost that challenge to the law because the Obama administration had provided federal cover for what they [the Arizona state legislature] were doing.”  In other words, it was impossible for the Federal government to protest a policy that it was mandating itself, other than by claiming that it alone had sole power to implement such discriminatory measures.

Gabriel Camacho of the American Friends Service Committee, said the application of the law “means speaking with an accent, or being a person of color – or any other form of racial profiling – can trigger a profound violation of human rights.  Most troubling is this decision undermines the moral fiber of the U.S. Constitution, and can be used by other states to enact laws that also enable racial profiling.”

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