LatinaLista — When Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano assumed her office, there were plenty of cynics who wondered if Napolitano would truly be a breath of fresh air for the DHS or merely Michael Chertoff, her predecessor, in drag.
Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano
(Photo Source: AP)
At the beginning, there were some hopeful signs. For example, the new attitude the Sec. had towards ICE conducting worksite raids at will. They've been minimized and reportedly, a clear chain of command must be informed when such raids take place.
Another hopeful sign was how Sec. Napolitano appeared to really want to hear the people. As recently as this week, she held a closed-door "listening session" with people who are impacted by illegal immigration in the Northwest.
Something her predecessor never had the time or will to do.
Yet, that's where the change stops.
Maybe as an olive branch to conservative critics, or because of all the other pending issues draining White House brains of creative solutions, Sec. Napolitano outlined this week that the Obama Administration's approach towards immigrant detention and the infamous 287 g program won't be different from the past administration's views.
In fact, they'll just be bigger and uglier.
This week, the Department of Homeland Security rejected a federal court petition filed by former detainees and immigrant advocates to make "legally enforceable rules for immigrant detention."
What does that mean?
It means federal detention centers will continue to be inspected by private contractors who will not have to adhere to any specific rules regarding violations or complaints by detainees over having access to health care, telephones, lawyers or even responding to reports of mistreatment by detention guards.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the immigration detention system, a conglomeration of county jails, federal centers and privately run prisons, concluded "that rule-making would be laborious, time-consuming and less flexible" than the review process now in place, Jane Holl Lute, the agency's deputy secretary, said in the letter.
Yet, rules not only help in the accountability process, they also keep people safer by penalizing those who are not fulfilling their duties.
A newly released report, A Broken System, outlining the failures of the current immigrant detention centers, found that because there were no rules set forth by the federal government in safeguarding the basic human rights of the detainees, too many violations were found that undermine the credibility of the system.
Despite the rapid growth since 1992 of the immigrant detention system, it is woefully unregulated. Neither the first set of detention standards that were promulgated beginning in 2000 nor their replacement, the "Performance Based National Detention Standards" (PBNDS) released in September 2008, are legally binding, sending a clear message that noncompliance carries no real penalty. The standards also are undermined by a lack of uniformity across the detention system.
The other surprise move by the Obama administration is condoning the expansion of the 287g program that empowers local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.
The most infamous 287g practitioner is Maricopa (Arizona) County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He and his "posse" have made headlines ever since they started setting up immigration sweeps in parts of his county that are predominantly Latino.
An in-depth analysis by a local newspaper on how Arpaio's use of the 287g impacts local law enforcement underscored why the program does little to safeguard any community and, in fact, promotes distrust between the Latino community and police and creates a higher propensity by police to racially profile potential suspects to fit the program's often misinterpreted objective.
Strange that Sec. Napolitano would not have acknowledged the problems 287g has already wreaked on her home state since she saw this firsthand.
It is said that there are many backroom deals that take place in Washington to get major bills passed. Given the different messages the Latino electorate received from the Obama campaign during the run for the White House and now, one has to wonder if these two issues, along with, the border wall are being sacrificed for something bigger.
If that's the case, it better not just be bigger but fulfill a campaign promise to the Latino electorate that had everyone believing "Se se puede."