LatinaLista -- If the Obama administration wanted to prove to GOP critics that they are indeed tough on undocumented immigrants, today's announcement from Dept. of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano should do the trick.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
In fiscal year 2010, ICE set a record for overall removals of illegal aliens, with more than 392,000 removals nationwide. Half of those removed--more than 195,000--were convicted criminals. The fiscal year 2010 statistics represent increases of more than 23,000 removals overall and 81,000 criminal removals compared to fiscal year 2008--a more than 70 percent increase in removal of criminal aliens from the previous administration.
The high number is being attributed to "increased border enforcement, workplace enforcement and an expansion of the department's Secure Communities program."
Unfortunately, while the administration is undoubtedly proud to show their critics that they do mean business when it comes to enforcing immigration law, it seems disingenuous to paint all 195,000 as "convicted criminals" in the traditional sense.
While there were probably rapists, murderers and scam artists among the 195,000, common sense says that not all 195,000 fit the public's definition of what is a convicted criminal.
In immigration cases, a convicted criminal can be someone who never ever broke the law but to cross illegally into the country in the first place, got caught and deported, but crossed back over to reunite with their family. Getting caught again makes them a felon or a convicted criminal.
There are far more cases of people crossing back over because they can't stand to be away from their families since taking their children south across the border is not an option because of the violence and destitution that await them.
No wonder there was a 70 percent increase from the Bush administration in apprehending "criminal aliens."
Trumpeting such high numbers of "convicted criminal aliens" does nothing but plant a negative perception in the public's mind and makes them not just suspicious but fearful of all brown-skinned, accent-speaking immigrants.
If the Obama administration wants to appease its critics but also show the Latino community that it still wants to work together, they should come clean with the numbers and tally the crimes that designate immigrants as "convicted criminal aliens."
Otherwise, people will go on thinking that every Latino they see is a criminal -- and that's a crime unto itself.