Immigration, Criminalization and American Progress

According to an article posted on The Hill, Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), the House Democratic Caucus vice chairman said that Latinos view President Obama with suspicion because of his inability (or unwillingness) to make moves on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform to match his many words. But I think the suspicion isn’t because it’s not that he hasn’t made moves…

I actually don’t think that the Department of Homeland Security, or I.C.E.for that matter, have gone rogue. I think they are continuing a legacy of criminalizing people of color, specifically immigrants, and using “security” as coded language for othering.

Yesterday afternoon I was on a call hosted by the Center for American Progress (hold your laughter please). The call was called “Securing Our Borders” and highlighted a report looking at border security as a key aspect of comprehensive immigration reform specifically in the context of the Secure Border Initiative. On the call were Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Chuck McCutcheon, the author of the report (This will open a PDF file), and Angela M. Kelley, VP for Immigration Policy and Advocacy for the CAP.


The very premise of the call was disturbing to me from the get. Given how the current CIR proposal coming from NY Democratic Senator Schumer and South Carolina Republican Senator Graham uses language that would criminalize the undocumented, using a “homeland security” context for the need for immigration reform couldn’t be anything good. There was more mention of the recent death of an Arizona rancher than the uncounted number of immigrants who have died crossing the border, for example.

Among the recommendations made by the Center for American Progress report (progress – it really is it’s own punchline) are:

Congress should address border security through comprehensive immigration reform legislation. As Napolitano said at CAP last year, current laws do not provide what DHS needs “to do its job as effectively as possible,” and comprehensive immigration reform is required to expand its enforcement strategies. Specifically regarding border issues, a new law could reduce the inflow of illegal immigrants and lessen the constant pressure on border technologies, while also creating new revenue streams to fund technology upgrades.

Reform in order to expand it’s enforcement. You all got that right?

The other idea that was repeated over and over throughout the call was the need for more and better technology along the U.S./Mexico border. Among the suggested ideas was the use of drones along the border to monitor the frontera including peope. A big supporter of this is Congressional Hispanic Caucus member Henry Cuellar, (D-TX). I was so confused and dismayed by his fervent support of the use of drones, as have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan, essentially further militarizing the border, that I had to ask for clarification on if he supported the use of drones for monitoring immigrants crossing the border. His answer was an unapologetic yes.

Other suggestions including more involvement of local communities when it comes to border enforcement, thinking “outside” the box when it comes to border security (i.e. have colleges teach courses on border security), and looking to border security to create new sources of income.

Ain’t American progress beautiful?

The fact that this call happened, while Democratic “leaders” like Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin make comments in favor of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, is telling in terms of what so called progressives are willing to bargain away so they can say they got a bill. Washington D.C. sources have told me that while there is Democratic support for CIR, Senators Schumer and Graham need to make the moves and be where the pressure is put. We’ve had a preview of Schumer’s and Graham’s proposal and it ain’t pretty.

So the strategic question is, what pressure needs to be put where and towards what end? As I live tweeted the press call, DREAM Act students asked me to ask Congressman Cuellar about his non-support for the DREAM Act. I did and you can listen to his response to my question on the audio of the call (I was the last question), but he gave a non-answer answer. Cuellar said that he, like his Congressional Hispanic Caucus, supports DREAM but that he would rather see comprehensive reform.

Like comprehensively building fences and comprehensively deporting.

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10 comments on “Immigration, Criminalization and American Progress
  1. Sorry to hear of this frustration non-progress. Border security is ancillary to the main thing to be looked at!: increased permanent legal immigration. At least you got to ask a question…

  2. Thanks for questioning the “logic” behind increased militarization of the border. What happened to all those who celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall? Why can’t they see that the US/Mexico border wall is creating the same kind of tensions, animosity and violence? Just like in Europe, real immigration reform will only happen when people have jobs that pay enough for them to stay home.

  3. Good news on S.B.1070. Spoke to my imm. law professor, a legit genius of sorts, and said that it would definitely be found unconstitutional and be struck down.

  4. Gracias Bryan. That is the general thought, that it will be deemed unconstitutional pero the fact that such a law was even passed is a problem. I am concerned with the train if thought that I am seeing in terms of policy that lends itself to fixing/amending policy once it is made. Get it right the first time or don’t do it.

  5. And you are absolutely right to be concerned.

    I think the ultimate blame has to go to President Obama and all those who have stated reform is necessary but now due to the political winds are reneging, i.e. Mccain.

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