May 21, 2010 - Arizona has become a lightening rod of anger — from those who hate the persecution of immigrants. That is a good thing — an exciting and much needed jolt! But we all need to ask whether there should also not be much more attention on those actively doing the deporting: I.e. the Obama Administration. We should ask ourselves if there isn’t some conscious and calculated misdirection involved in the Democratic establishment denouncing specifically a very mean-spirited Arizona law (passed by Republicans), while their team (which after all has power!) has escalated the deportations nationally...
Arizona has become a lightening rod of anger — from those who hate the persecution of immigrants. That is a good thing — an exciting and much needed jolt!
But we all need to ask whether there should also not be much more attention on those actively doing the deporting: I.e. the Obama Administration.
We should ask ourselves if there isn’t some conscious and calculated misdirection involved in the Democratic establishment denouncing specifically a very mean-spirited Arizona law (passed by Republicans), while their team (which after all has power!) has escalated the deportations nationally.
Let’s be clear on a key point:
The White House accuses the Arizona law of unjustly profiling Latinos who are legal — while they themselves escalate the deportation of those who are illegal.
Is that a stand we want to take? No.
We want to stand up precisely for the rights of the undocumented — to demand their legalization. To demand an end to their persecution.To welcome their bold participation in this society. To demand their right to speak and live — and yes have political power. To expose the injustice of combining capitalist exploitation in the fields and sweatshops with street persecution by police and ICE agents.
Sure: there is "collateral damage" as this system attacks the undocumented.
Yes, it means that Latinos generally are insulted and humiliated by police, and yes that will accelerate in Arizona because of their fascist law. Those who are legal face the awful humiliation of being stopped by racist police. But for those who are illegal — that police stop and humiliation is far too often just the beginning of a true nightmare.
The larger injustice here is the deportation of undocumented working people, the daily terror this causes them and their families, and the much larger social impact of having a whole tier of the working class living in a shadow world of illegality.
We should be clear: We oppose police harassment of people who haven’t broken the law. But we are also raising our voices specifically against the treatment of those who have broken the immigration law. A corrupt and unjust law encouraging the constant super-exploitation of millions of workers in restaurants, hotels, fields, construction sites and sweatshops.
We must rise to defend the undocumented workers — the very ones who this administration is rushing to persecute.
Urge conventions to boycott Arizona? Sure. Let’s welcome and support the brave immigrant youth who are standing up in Arizona — walking out of their high schools, then risking arrest and deportation to call us all into action.
But let’s not fall for a cynical election-year strategy that focuses only there in Arizona and that often focuses mainly on the racial profiling of citizens and legal residents. And that leaves the true crimes of this administration, this government and this larger exploitative system unchallenged.
Deportations continue in Texas, California, Iowa, North Carolina, Illinois, Washington DC and a few blocks from where you live. Millions live in terror of a police encounter. And the deportations are accelerating.
"My mom … she says that Barack Obama is taking everybody away that doesn’t have papers," the second-grader said after being called on by the first lady, who was visiting a suburban Maryland school with Mexico’s First Lady Margarita Zavala.
And when Michele Obama replied by describing the need to make sure "that people can be here with the right kind of papers," the girl simply responded quietly: "But my mom doesn’t have any." (Watch the video below.)
The girl’s guilelessness and innocence, in contrast to the inchoate rage of the anti-immigrant movement — and even to the first lady’s suddenly hollow-sounding talking points — could well turn her into an icon as immigration makes its way to the front of the national agenda.
But surely she was wrong, in suggesting that President Obama is a particular danger to undocumented immigrants? Perhaps she was confusing him with the governor of Arizona or something?
Well, actually, it turns out the little girl was right. Obama’s Department of Homeland Security has been deporting more undocumented immigrants than President Bush’s ever did.
The number of deportations each year more than tripled during the Bush era — and has kept going up since then. During fiscal year 2009, the first fiscal year of the Obama era, 387,790 immigrants were deported — almost 100,000 more during the last full fiscal year of the Bush presidency.
Department of Homeland Security officials stress one big difference between Bush and Obama policies: that the percentage of convicted criminals among the deportees is rising dramatically.
In fiscal year 2008, 31 percent of the 369,221 deportees had criminal records. From October of 2009 to late April of 2010, that figure was up to 48 percent.
Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice, credits Obama with "one significant rollback" relative to the Bush years, "which was of high-profile workplace raids."
But, Sharry said, Obama’s record is a far cry from what many of his supporters were expecting. "It’s remarkable that Barack Obama as a candidate spoke so movingly about how our enforcement priorities were wrong — and now he’s exceeded the Bush administration level," Sharry said.
The final bar, representing the projections for fiscal year 2010, is the subject of some contention, however. It’s based on an internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo published by the Washington Post in February. In the memo, James M. Chaparro, the agency’s head of detention and removal operations, told field offices to step up their deportations, particularly of "non-criminal aliens" — and he disclosed that the agency had a goal for FY2010 of deporting 400,000 immigrants, 250,000 of whom, or 62 percent, were expected not to have committed any crimes.
That would be up yet another 3 percent over last year. But ICE has since withdrawn that memo, however, saying portions did not reflect actual policies.
And the actual numbers of deportations for October 2009 through the end of April — about 186,000 — suggests that the total for fiscal year 2010, which ends five months from now, could turn out to be lower than last year’s.
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