LatinaLista — A stunning display of bipartisan cooperation was seen in Washington today. No, it's not the transitional team of President-elect Obama.
National Immigration Forum, Press Conference, Rayburn Building, Capitol Hill, November 19, 2008.
(Source: Rodney Choice)
Rather, it's an even more unlikely group that featured small-town city council members, immigrant rights activists, diocesan priests, business owners, attorneys and law enforcement officials. Their mutual interest is the U.S.-Mexico border.
This group calls themselves the U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force and what they have accomplished takes citizen-generated contributions to new heights.
The group unveiled in Washington today an BPR Executive Summary.docx outlining 70 specific recommendations for improving immigration enforcement along the border. There was only one guiding principle that tied this diverse group together â€” focusing on the question of what genuinely makes their communities safer and stronger.
The vast majority of the recommendations identify specific ways to improve enforcement objectives, reduce the possibility of civil and human rights violations, and engage border communities in creating solutions to legitimate concerns about violence and security along the border, as well as for calling for an end to misguided and fiscally irresponsible programs, such as the mandatory construction of a physical border wall. Some of these suggestions have already been recognized by Congress and incorporated into proposals such as the STRIVE Act of 2007 and the bi-partisan Senate immigration proposal of 2007, including the creations of the U.S.-Mexico Border Review Commission, the Congressional Report on Border Deaths, the Border Patrol Training Review and Local Community Consultations among others.
Their recommendations are common sense, but most importantly, no-nonsense recommendations. Some of them are:
Communities are more secure when border enforcement policies focus on the criminal element and engage immigrants in fighting the real dangers facing us. Community security is an integral part of national and border security, but we need to stop treating the immigrant as the greatest threat, focusing instead on dangerous criminals, traffickers, and exploiters in border and immigrant communities.
Communities are destabilized by harsh detention and removal practices. It is essential to dramatically overhaul detention practices and the manner in which we conduct removals. We propose a series of specific reforms to improve the human rights conditions of the U.S. detention and deportation system, which currently has little oversight and accountability.
Perhaps the most revolutionary recommendation to emerge from the task force, and one that is long overdue, is the fact that these leaders represent a new attitude in border community leaders who are tired of the disrespect, dismissal and expectation of Washington for these communities to roll over and comply with policies mandated from DC that directly impact their quality of life â€” social, business and binational relationships â€” without including them in the decision-making process.
If the current Administration wants to salvage what's left of a tattered legacy, they would be wise to take a serious look at the 70 recommendations and see which ones they can implement immediately and which ones will have to wait for the next Administration.
It would be political suicide to forge ahead with border business as usual in light of what these border community leaders have accomplished.
In addition to fostering a deep mistrust of the federal government in border communities, the government runs a greater risk of being forever remembered in a bad light from generation to generation as the subject of the oldest form of storytelling on the border â€” the corrido.
While it may strike some as amusing, there's no greater insult than being unflatteringly remembered in song and, as everyone knows, songs make memories last a whole lot longer.