By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger
For the most part, it's been a good week for immigration reform. The Senate approved a measure that will end the "Widow Penalty," which rescinded applications for U.S. residency if one's spouse of two years or less years dies, and on Tuesday, as RaceWire reports, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation that restores the right of due process to immigrant youth.
Now for the not-so good news: The U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has decided to modify, not cancel, its many 287(g) agreements, as the Colorado Independent reports. Cause for celebration on this change may not yet be warranted. The proposed modification does not address the problems inherent to the provision.
According to ICE data, 55 jurisdictions have signed "new standardized agreements" with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 12 others are pending agreement. ICE now requires police officers who turn in undocumented immigrants to follow through on "All criminal charges that originally caused the offender to be taken into custody." But what measures has ICE taken to eradicate the racial profiling that has tainted the reputation of the 287(g) provision? The ACLU does not feel the modification is enough. And it's hard to see how it could be. Under the modifications, the police would still be perceived by the immigrant community as prosecutors and potential border guards, not protectors to work with for the good of a neighborhood.
Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a perfect example of why the White House needs to cease all 287(g) agreements. Reporting for AlterNet, Isabel Macdonald chronicles the bizarre antics and mindset of the rogue lawman. Arpaio's 287(g) agreement with the Federal government was recently downgraded. He can no longer perform his "over broad" sweeps, but Macdonald makes clear that this change is mostly symbolic. Arpaio is simply "An official who has come to expect total impunity."
Another small, but meaningful step happened recently Milwaukee, as Leticia Miranda reports for RaceWire. Matt Nelson, a Milwaukee small business owner and spokesman for the Milwaukee Police Accountability Coalition, was harassed by police and threatened when he refused to reveal his Social Security Number (SSN) to an officer. Incensed, Nelson "pursued litigation of the officer filing a formal complaint against him," appealing to the Milwaukee Fire and Commission, who oversees the Milwaukee Police Department.
The commission ruled that the officer was acting without any legal authority and issued guidelines for departments to clarify the issue [PDF memo]. While the Milwaukee ruling is definitely a victory, we must look closer at the many police departments that operate under the 287(g) provision to monitor any "less formal 'agreements' to find and arrest people who 'look' undocumented."
Going back to San Francisco's fight to adopt a measure restoring due process to undocumented youth: Mayor Gavin Newsom passed a law last summer that directs police who arrest undocumented youth to report them to ICE before any trial, leading to the deportation of undocumented youth for any perceived offense that leads them into police custody. The measure to restore due process was passed, and with enough margin to override a possible veto by the Mayor. Mayor Newsom has proclaimed he will disregard the ruling entirely, much like a certain Sheriff.
Writing for Salon, Joe Conason makes a good case for reframing the health care discussion as it pertains to immigrants. He points to the perverse "moral perspective of the nativists and politicians" that leap up to assure everyone that the undocumented will most certainly not be allowed to buy into health insurance. But what about families with undocumented parents and citizen children? It should never be "permissible to let the 'illegals' and their children suffer from illness and even die prematurely, so long as their condition poses no threat to the rest of us," as Conason writes.
Finally, "a new joint U.S.-Mexico" study on children of Mexican parents finds that this demographic is already "one of the most vulnerable sectors in America's health care system," as New America Media reports. 86 percent of those studied were U.S. citizens. New America Media's Odette Keeley questions Yurina Rico, public health editor for La Opinion, as to why these children are so often uninsured. According to Rico, these communities are often isolated from proper information on health care. Rico goes on to say that unfortunately, these disparities in health care are not being factored into health care policy discussions.
The U.S. has long way to go before it acts on the premise that--as lofty as it might sound--we really are one large human family. As Sojourner's reminds us, even Americans of European origin have immigrant roots.
The sooner our laws and health care and safety reflect the importance of all members of this large human family, the healthier this nation will be.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.