Obama Should Stop Immigration Raids

By Miguel Perez

March 23, 2009 5 min read

It's going to happen! Regardless of the fact that some people write me bitter letters assuring me that illegal immigrants never will be given any form of amnesty, this is the year when we finally will begin to fix our broken immigration system, with logical and compassionate measures instead of Draconian legislation and Gestapo tactics.

We can expect many tantrums from some Republican anti-immigrant zealots in Congress, but this is finally the year when we will recognize and accept the 12 million otherwise-law-abiding people who already live among us. They already pick our crops, mow our lawns, wash our dishes and cars, and care for our kids and elderly. But at last, this is the year when we will allow them to walk out of the shadows!

President Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have signaled clearly that they are preparing a comprehensive immigration reform package that will be unveiled and introduced in Congress this fall. They say it surely will involve some sort of conditional amnesty and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have no criminal records and can prove they have lived here for at least a few years.

The Democrats typically offer much more rhetoric than action on immigration reform. So why am I so optimistic that they finally will make this dream a reality? It's simple: self-preservation! They will do it because breaking their many promises to the immigrant communities, particularly Latinos, is no longer a sane option. If the Democrats fail to reform our immigration system, especially after already using their majority status to ram other controversial measures through Congress, those who depend on support from Latino and other immigrant voters would be committing political suicide.

That's why we see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking out much more forcefully for immigration reform. That's why other Democrats are participating in a 17-city series of rallies organized by advocates who seek compassionate, comprehensive reform. That's why Latino lawmakers were so optimistic after discussing immigration with Obama last week. Again, I say it's going to happen!

The question now is whether Obama should change some of the policies of the previous administration, even before he goes to Congress and seeks to change some laws. Because Obama has done this with other issues, many immigrant advocates are calling for his administration to declare a moratorium on workplace raids and to cease arresting and deporting noncriminal undocumented workers.

"I stand with other faith leaders and all of you gathered here today and with every immigrant family in this nation to call on our government to end immigration raids and the separation of families," said Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, at a church rally in his town Saturday. George, who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted, "Such reform would be a clear sign this administration is truly about change."

It makes a lot of sense. If we intend to make these people legal residents in the near future, why keep persecuting them? The Department of Homeland Security should concentrate on catching only criminal immigrants and securing the borders to prevent future illegal immigration.

Even before the administration stops the workplace raids, Obama should ban the heinous "collateral damage" tactics of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency appropriately known as ICE. When ICE agents raid an apartment building or a multifamily home in search of a criminal immigrant, they usually arrest any other undocumented immigrant they find along the way. In fact, they have been known to leave many buildings without the criminal they sought in the first place but with a lot of other undocumented immigrants, whom they consider "collateral damage."

If the Obama administration wants to fire a warning salvo to let Congress know that real change is coming on immigration, banning workplace raids and "collateral damage" would be a good place to start.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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