By Steve Taylor
Rio Grande Guardian
SAN JUAN, TX — The head of homeland security in the United States says it is “unfortunate” that immigrants who have not committed a criminal act get separated from their families by ICE and Border Patrol.
However, Janet Napolitano did not give any assurances that things would change when she took questions from reporters at the Border Patrol station in McAllen last week.
“We have set priorities. We are looking for those who have violated criminal laws, in addition to immigration laws, recent border crossers; fugitives from warrants. Those are the ones that cause the greater danger to the community. That does not mean that there will not be families, unfortunately that get separated in an immigration process,” Napolitano said.
A new memorandum from John Morton, director of Immigration and Custom Enforcement, says the Obama Administration is placing more emphasis on catching and deporting criminals than on undocumented immigrants who have come to the United States to look for work.
The policy memo calls on ICE to use a priority process to work to deport high priority undocumented immigrants. It also calls for prosecutorial discretion for low priority immigrants and gives them broad guidelines that could mean some cases are administratively closed, work permits issued, or deportations canceled.
Napolitano was asked about the separation and deportation of undocumented immigrants who have not committed criminal acts by KTLM-TV reporter Reyna Luna, who noted that various immigrant rights groups were protesting Napolitano’s visit to the Rio Grande Valley.
Over 30 protesters chanted loudly outside the Border Patrol offices while Napolitano was in the building. They carried signs saying, “Ya basta! Necesitamos educacion con legalizacion,” “Justicia para todas y todos,” “Immigrant with a degree,” “Stop unjust deportation,” “Immigration reform now,” and “Stop separating families.”
Among the groups protesting was La Unión del Pueblo Entero. “We do not like the deportation of our people. We want more secure communities. We need immigration reform. We need to help the people that work in the fields. ICE, la migra, is separating our families. They need to respect family values,” said LUPE’s Cris Rocha, of Edinburg.
Another LUPE member from Edinburg, Hector Guzman, said Border Patrol made a major sweep for immigrants in the Valley, perhaps to coincide with Napolitano’s visit. “A student was picked up. He was doing nothing wrong. It was just a traffic violation. They picked up 300 people in one day,” Guzman said.
Guzman said Morton’s new memo had not changed anything.
“President Obama has gone back on his word. He said they were going to slow down on deporting regular violations and just concentrate on hard core criminals. That is not the case. It is regular workers, regular students that are being deported on a daily basis,” Guzman said.
In response to Luna’s question, Napolitano said the Obama Administration is trying to pass the immigration reforms the protestors want.
“I think what they are really advocating for is that our nation’s immigration laws be reformed. There has no stronger supporter of that than the President. He has outlined what he wants by way of reform, he has sat down with members of the Congress, he has personally called members of the Congress and yet he does not have the power, unilaterally, by himself, to reform the law, to change the law,” Napolitano said.
“So, we continue to make sure our enforcement of the law is firm, is fair, is effective, is efficient, but at the same time to advocate that the basic law be updated and reformed in any number of ways.”
Two days after Napolitano’s visit to McAllen, Bishop Daniel E. Flores spoke about the need for comprehensive immigration reform when he met with reporters at the San Juan Basilica. Flores he could not understand why the status quo has existed for so long in Washington, D.C.…
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