LatinaLista — For those of us who advocate the government get started on reforming the nation's immigration system, President Obama's announcement that he's pushing back the issue on his agenda until other priorities, like health care, get resolved are disappointing.
Mexico President Felipe Calderon and President Obama share a moment at the North American summit in Guadalajara.
However, It's not surprising. After having seen how health care town hall meetings have been "invaded" by supposedly "hired" extremist opponents and how critics of the reform bill have unleashed a steady wave of misinformation, passed along as facts, it's no wonder the White House is having second thoughts on battling another wave of organized opposition.
It's about time that the White House and Democrats get a taste of what those of us in immigrant advocacy circles have been battling ever since immigration reform was first introduced in Congress -- lies regurgitated as facts, organized anti-immigrant campaigns led by media personalities and so-called think-tank organizations passing themselves off as being neutral when in reality, they are far from it.
Battling these people, who want only to erect a human wall of vocal dissent, and have no interest in helping create a real solution is not just emotionally draining but discouraging.
However, given the news that things are getting worse without immigration reform should more than justify starting work on immigration reform, sooner than later.
For starters, while the Obama Administration is to be commended for announcing their intention for overhauling immigrant detention, it's troubling that they still plan to contract with private corporations.
Especially in light of the fact that it was discovered by analyst Erin Rosa at Gabacha.com that since the beginning of 2009, private prison firms have profited from contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the amount of $72 million.
A Gabacha.com analysis of procurement records found that two corrections businesses--the Flordia-based GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America out of Tennessee--have dominated the immigration detention business. So far the companies have made at least $72 million this year. The firms made a total of $121 million in federal immigration contracts in 2008.
The reason why it's disturbing to see how much profit these companies have made was because both have been subjects of accusations and federal investigations for a variety of complaints: Inmates have been routinely denied timely health care, access to attorneys, clean living quarters and adequate food rations. Children held in family detention centers were subjected to intimidation by guards who threatened to separate them from their parent(s) if they did not behave the way the guards wanted them to. There have also been reports of sexual abuse and rape.
Though the administration plans to reform oversight of the detention facilities, it doesn't plan to stop detaining undocumented immigrants. All the more reason why immigration reform needs to happen sooner than later.
Also, the lack of an immigration reform bill has deepened the problem of corruption along the U.S.-Mexico border.
An Associated Press (AP) investigation found that "U.S. law officers who work the border are being charged with criminal corruption in numbers not seen before."
The offenses? Some had to do with accepting bribes from drug traffickers to look the other way -- but not all.
Not all corruption charges that turned up in AP's checks were related to drug trafficking. The researched cases involve agents helping smuggle immigrants, drugs or other contraband, taking wads of money or sexual favors in exchange -- or simply allowing entry to someone whose paperwork isn't up to snuff, all part of the daily border traffic that has politicians demanding that the U.S.-Mexico border be secured.
Court records show corrupt officials along the 2,100-mile U.S.-Mexico border have included local police and elected sheriffs, and officers with such U.S. Department of Homeland Security agencies as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which includes Border Patrol. Some have even been National Guardsmen temporarily called in to help while the Border Patrol expanded its ranks.
CBP saw the number of its officers charged with corruption-related crimes nearly triple, from eight cases in fiscal 2007 to 21 the following year
It goes without saying that if immigration reform was enacted, it may not completely erase the corruption that is taking root along the border but it would impact it.
In-house CBP data shows corrupt agents fall into two categories--recent hires who are charged very quickly, indicating they took the jobs intending to break the law, and veteran agents who have worked for the agency for a decade or more before succumbing to the offers.
It's understandable that the Obama administration is concerned about passing healthcare reform but by not seriously starting to address immigration reform sooner, the prospect of corruption growing and expanding is a real threat that continues to only worsen the illegal immigration issue.