NYT article on influential anti-immigrant activist

The New York Times has published a profile of John Tanton, a Petoskey, Michigan native who founded three influential groups that oppose immigration.  As the article describes, Mr. Tanton and his groups have made some statements that others label as blatantly racist, bigoted, and culturally insensitive.

Please read the article for some insights into the man behind much of the current anti-immigrant sentiment.

Commentary: Latino leaders must combat anti-immigrant bigotry

In the Detroit Free Press, Gus West, board chair and president of the Hispanic Institute, calls on Latino leaders to respond forcefully against assaults on immigrants’ rights.  Referring to a proposal recently introduced in the Michigan legislature, HB 4305, which seeks to follow in the footsteps of Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation, Mr. West urges leaders to “lead the way” against such measures.

Mr. West connects the current anti-immigrant sentiment to past eras in American history, as he writes:  “The tactic isn’t new. The archives of newspapers from the 1920s are filled with similar stories — not about Hispanics, but about Italians, Germans, Eastern European Jews and others who came to America to make better lives. Those groups overcame the prejudices of the day, often with help from leaders from their respective ethnic groups, and so will Hispanics. But, it won’t happen as quickly or as effectively for Hispanics without support from the Latino leadership.”

Click here to go to the commentary at the Detroit Free Press.

NYT Editorial: Immigration Enforcement Program is Bad News

The New York Times published the following editorial:

No Exit from a Bad Program

“I’m totally confused now,” wrote a government official in one of thousands of internal e-mails released last week on the subject of Secure Communities, the federal program enlisting state and local police in the crackdown on illegal immigrants.

The confusion was over a simple question: Could a state or city choose not to participate in Secure Communities? That is, could it decide to preserve that bright line separating local policing from federal immigration enforcement, so as not to discourage immigrants from reporting crimes?

The e-mails show that the Department of Homeland Security didn’t know how to answer the question — even two years into the program, which sends the fingerprints of everyone arrested by participating state and local agencies to federal databases for an immigration check.

The answer was important, because while the Obama administration has made Secure Communities a centerpiece of its immigration-enforcement strategy, many state and local agencies have wanted nothing to do with it. They know it has been used to deport tens of thousands of people with no criminal records, even though it was supposed to focus strictly on dangerous criminals.

They have seen how some politicized and unscrupulous police departments have used it as an excuse for racial profiling. They worry that participation will strain their resources and make community policing harder.

Though the e-mails, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by immigrant-rights advocates, show the agency at its most confused, top administration officials had no doubt: Secure Communities doesn’t allow states and localities to opt out. As The Times reported, the administration even “developed a plan to isolate and pressure communities that did not want to participate.”

There is a place for local law enforcement in immigration matters, but it must be strictly limited and cautiously drawn. It must place the highest priority on catching and removing dangerous criminals, while letting alone those without criminal records — the vast proportion of the undocumented population.

President Obama has repeatedly promised that he will work to change the immigration laws so undocumented immigrants who work hard can earn legal status. The Secure Communities program goes against that vow. It is also bad for public safety. States, cities and towns should be able to opt out.

Here is a link to the editorial.

New York Times Editorial: Citizenship by birth and assimilation are fundamental American values

The New York Times published an editorial titled “Angry Arizona, Again.”  Here is the editorial in its entirety:

Many states are doing urgent business: jobs, the economy, broken budgets. Arizona’s legislators are trying to give government new powers to strip away individual rights, to extend immigration enforcement into schools, public housing, hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Arizona made itself ground zero for a new nativism last year with a radical policing law that encouraged racial profiling and declared the mass expulsion of undocumented immigrants to be official state policy. This led to boycotts, slumping tourism and convention business, and lawsuits, including one by the Obama administration. Yet Arizona’s current legislative session is overstuffed with nativist bills, several of which passed through committee on Tuesday in an “omnibus” measure.

They include:

A bill to chop up the 14th Amendment to deny citizenship to children born in Arizona to undocumented mothers. A bill requiring hospitals to check every patient’s citizenship status, turning doctors and nurses into the immigration police. A bill to deny education to undocumented children by requiring proof of citizenship to enroll in any public or private school. A bill to criminalize driving by illegal immigrants, and to evict them from public housing. This will fix nothing, and do real harm.

The birthright citizenship bill interprets the 14th Amendment in a way no federal court or Congress ever has. The state would issue a different type of birth certificate to babies whose parents lack papers. It’s a nonexistent problem; women are not sneaking over the border to have babies who — when they turn 21 — may be able to sponsor them for green cards. The plan will not drive away illegal immigrants, but it would turn generations of young Americans into deportable criminals.

The Supreme Court has ruled that undocumented children have a right to primary education, because the country is not served by perpetuating an illiterate underclass. And yet Arizona’s elected leaders persist in their assault on that principle. The bills’ sponsors don’t seem to care about the damage they do. They are bent on inflaming the anxieties in a changing country, even when crime is down in border cities and immigration has tapered off. New Census data shows America’s population growing more slowly than it has since the 1930s — another era of rampant bigotry and racial scapegoating.

We hope the angry Arizonans, and the rest of the country, will soon return to their values. Citizenship by birth and assimilation of newcomers are central to the American experiment. All that separates our newest immigrants from previous waves is the lack of a working system to assimilate them.

Here is a link to the editorial.

Texas police chiefs oppose immigration bills

The El Paso Times reports that Texas police chiefs and sheriffs have declared their opposition to state legislators’ attempts to make them act in the role of immigration officials, saying that law enforcement officials, not politicians, know how to maintain safety in communities.

Police chiefs from many parts of Texas, including El Paso, Dallas, McAllen, San Antonio, and Austin, recently traveled to the state Capitol to denounce the Arizona-style legislation, which they say would take their deputies and officers out of neighborhoods and require more spending, at a time when legislators are already reducing funding to deal with budget deficits.

The officers said that the proposed legislation could cost taxpayers millions of dollars to detain undocumented immigrants in state jails, pay for officer training and defend any lawsuits that might arise.  The officers also said that the proposed legislation would destroy the trust that police officers have established with their local communities, making people less willing to cooperate with police.

Read the entire article here.