Immigrants’ Advocates Not Letting Up on Obama
The federal immigration program that allows local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws is becoming a thorn in the side of the Obama administration.
It’s part of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s tough-on-illegal immigrants strategy, and it wins President Obama points from conservatives who fear he’ll go soft on “illegals”. But the abuse of immigrants by local sheriffs like Joe Arpaio in Arizona have outraged immigrant advocacy groups, while even major law enforcement organizations oppose saddling local cops with federal law enforcement responsibilities that often undermine police forces’ ability to do their jobs.
Stepping up the pressure, on Tuesday, 521 different civil rights and advocacy organizations sent a letter to President Obama urging him to immediately terminate the program, known as 287(g) after the section of the immigration law that authorizes it.
Capitalizing on the President’s recent remarks acknowledging a history of racial profiling in the United States in connection with the arrest of his friend, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., the letter reads in part:
We applaud your recent remarks acknowledging, that “there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” However, DHS’s continued use of the 287(g) program exacerbates exactly this type of racial profiling. In light of well-documented evidence that local law enforcement agencies are using 287(g) powers to justify and intensify racial profiling, Secretary Napolitano’s July 10, 2009 announcement that DHS has expanded the 287(g) program to include 11 new jurisdictions is deeply alarming.
The letter comes on the heels of a recent admission by President Obama that he’s not likely to get an immigration reform bill passed this year, though he’d promised Latino groups he’d make that a priority when he was running for office.
Immigration experts say the continued crackdown on enforcement without providing an opportunity for legalization of otherwise law-abiding immigrants could dampen Latino voters’ initial enthusiasm for Obama, as well as for other Democrats in the next round of elections.