June 11th, 2012
President Barack Obama’s administration, when confronted with it’s record breaking deportation numbers, consistently counters that immigration enforcement efforts are smarter. Officials like Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and Cecilia Muñoz director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, point to the policy of prosecutorial discretion, explained in what has become known as the Morton Memo released a year ago.
Recent reports, however, back up what immigrant communities and activists have been saying for the past year : that so called discretion has never really been applied. The New York Times reported that according to DHS, only about 4,400 deportations have been stopped since a review of cases began last fall. This means that out of the hundreds of thousands of deportation cases allegedly reviewed, fewer than 2 percent of the cases were closed.
Why? Evidence points to the administration not following its own guidelines. As reported by Adriana Maestas at Politics 365, low priority cases, that is cases involving DREAM eligible youth with ties to the U.S. including immediate family that are legal residents and or US citizens.
It’s easy to argue against anti-immigrant language but hard to argue against GOP measures like the recent DHS House Appropriations Bill which defunds the so-called Morton Memo. The Morton Memo has proven to be far from backdoor amnesty as claimed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) especially since so few are seeing any actual benefits. Why fund a program that isn’t doing what it set out to do, period. This isn’t about partisan politics, this is about a policy that hasn’t lived up to it’s stated purpose.
Additionally, it seems hat once again the Obama administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth in order to appear both tough on immigration and a friend to the immigrant. In an interview published recently in Poder magazine, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is quoted as saying:
90 percent of the people who are being removed from the country have been convicted of a crime other than immigration – either homicide, rape, or assault.
In other words, it’s the big, bad immigrants that are getting deported. Problem is, the numbers being touted to the Latino community as signs of successful discretion don’t match what is being seen on the ground or even Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (I.C.E.) own numbers.
November 18th, 2011
Yesterday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Principal Legal Advisor directed all ICE attorneys to begin a systematic review of immigration cases to determine whether pursuing deportation in each case is consistent with the Administration’s enforcement priorities. In other words, the memo told ICE lawyers to follow the June 17, 2011 Morton Memo when reviewing 300,000 active deportation cases. This directive follows an August announcement that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to review cases to assess whether they fall within the enforcement priorities and suspend those cases which do not. The suspension of these cases does not mean a change in legal status, nor does it mean work permits will be granted. The ICE memo also provided more detailed guidance to ICE attorneys regarding criteria for determining when it is appropriate to exercise prosecutorial discretion to close or dismiss a case.
ICE has described as “low priority” those cases involving DREAM-eligible youth, military family members, crime victims, and immigrants with strong family ties. The implementation process involves two components: a nationwide training program for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and prosecuting lawyers, so that the agency’s practices are in line with the new deportation policy; and a pilot initiative in Baltimore and Denver to begin the review, on a case-by-case basis, of pending deportations.
In reading the actual memos, specifically the enforcement priorities, the definition of “criminality” is vague enough to justify the deportation of anyone. For example, according to the guidelines, anyone with a misdemeanor that includes “any significant threat to public safety”, should be “pursued in an accelerated manner…”. How does this directive take into account the levels of racial profiling in immigrant communities?
The case by case review is scheduled to end on January 13th of next year, after which the program will be reevaluated and no doubt, there will be another flurry of press releases showing off how many “good” immigrants can stay in the United States.
The proof will be in the practice, not in a public relations policy.
Sources: The American Immigration Council, ICE Documents which can be seen as PDF’s here, here, and here
November 15th, 2011
It’s a long way from April, when hardly anyone paid much mind to my critique of the role Cecilia Muñoz, the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, was playing in her defense of the indefensible, the increase in detentions and deportations, and the growing criminalization of communities these increases requires.
Now, there are petitions, open letters, appearances, articles, and attacks. I knew that taking a position that directly challenged Muñoz as the Latina spokesperson for an administration that has actually done worse to our communities would be controversial and would also demand that community organizations who claim legitimacy in their role as community representatives be held accountable. I did/do this, not because it is in my mission statement, nor because I am beholden to any entity beyond the vecinos I stood doing laundry with on Sunday mornings, whom week after week watched Muñoz lie to them on behalf of an administration that promised change. The words in the American Prospect article are completely my own and I stand by them.
It is easy for organizations, their leadership, and the public relations departments housed within them, to attack an individual writer, calling them ill-informed and accusing them (me) of doing a disservice to the community. What has proven more difficult is answering the questions that remain. This is not about what services a specific organization provides nor about if they have condemned an immigration policy that deports an average of 400,000 people a year, leaving thousands of children in foster care. What it is about is answering precisely how does supporting Cecilia Muñoz serve the community? Claims about her attempting to change immigration policy fall flat in the face of reports that show that prosecutorial discretion is not being exercised, bolstering accusations that the Morton Memo and alleged reviews of deportation cases are nothing more than public relation tools.
As more data and documents are released and ICE fights tooth and nail to hide a paper trail that more than likely contains proof of the intentions behind their detention and deportation policies and practices, it falls on organizations claiming to represent community to show why shielding spokespeople for an administration that has failed in fulfilling it’s promises is beneficial.
Everything else, just like in the Obama administration is just PR.
July 29th, 2011
On Tuesday, July 26th Immigration and Customs Enforcement put Andy Mathe on a Delta airplane out of Atlanta to South Africa. He was deported to the country his mom, grandmother and siblings left almost five years ago. As news came in on Tuesday evening, there were updates, tweets, and phone calls. None were enough to stop what the current administration seemed determined to do, deport this young man and separate him from his family here, especially his mother.
Now the rest of the family that remains in the US is preparing to meet the same fate as Andy. On August 2nd the Mathe family will check-in with ICE authorities under their order of supervision. The entire family’s plea to remain in the U.S. was rejected along with Andy’s. Whether the family will be detained and deported at the August 2nd visit remains to be seen, it seems like a very likely possibility given how things went down with Andy earlier this week.
Under the terms of the newly released memo by John Morton this family meets the requirement for discretion. Advocates hope the Obama administration; Rep. John Lewis and immigration authorities do not once again fail the Mathe-Karekezi family. It seems clear to me, as I feared and told people in the days following the release of the Morton memo, that the actual application of discretion would fall far from what advocates hope.
DREAM Activist is asking people to call Rep. John Lewis to act on behalf of the Mathe family members that remain in the United States.
1. Atlanta office: 404-659-0116
2. Washington D.C. office: 202-225-3801
“Hi I was calling to ask that Rep. Lewis stop delaying action, Andy has already been deported and the rest of the family is next. Rep. Lewis needs to contact ICE directly and write a letter demanding the Mathe family not be deported.”
If you are in the Chicago area, there is a rally scheduled for this coming Tuesday in support of the family, organized by Immigrant Youth Justice League.