LatinaLista — It was reported today that the Obama administration is expanding an immigration program that was started under the Bush administration.
It entails checking the immigration status of people booked into local jails. The idea being that those who are found to be undocumented and who have served their time for their crimes will be deported versus let back into US society.
On the surface, this sounds like a very good program. After all, no one wants rapists, murderers or thieves let back into society if they don’t have a legal right to be here, but this program is flawed on a variety of levels.
Rather than just expanding a flawed program, the Obama administration would do better to re-evaluate it and implement an improved version and one that reflects that this administration understands what true immigration reform means.
The program is already being implemented in 48 counties across the country and is known as the Secure Communities program.
The whole premise of the program is very high-tech and utilizes biometric technologies and access to a series of databases that should hold the information law enforcement officials need to make a determination about the legal status of a person.
The problem is that while the back-end of the program is high-tech, the front-end of the program which determines the criminality of the person is still processed by low-tech methods â€” which runs the high-risk of prejudice and discrimination.
According to ICE, “the incarcerated criminal alien population in the U.S. is estimated at between 300,000 & 450,000.”
A logical assumption is that the so-called “criminal alien population” includes people who have been picked up for such offenses as jaywalking, public intoxication or buying a false social security number â€” hardly the kinds of crimes that constitute serious threats to society.
While critics of undocumented immigrants will always argue that undocumented immigrants are indeed criminals because they broke US immigration laws, even they have to concede that there is a big difference between someone who murders versus someone who uses a false social security card.
If someone feels there is no difference between these two sets of examples then their discrimination has already colored any sense of fairness or objectivity and their views are discounted in this argument.
And that is the crux of the problem with the Secure Communities program.
Up until now, this program has not done a very good job of identifying and penalizing people who commit heinous crimes versus those people labeled as criminals because of their legal status.
In the process, law-abiding members of families and/or persons, in every other way, have been carted off to jail or their names entered in the databases as criminals targeted for removal, without any legal recourse to pursue citizenship or petition to legally stay in this country.
The Secure Communities program looks at everyone the same without taking into consideration the facts of their individual situations.
If the program can implement such high-tech measures to identify people by their unique fingerprints then it should also be able to evaluate each person’s unique situation to determine 1. If the nature of their crime really was a crime that poses a serious threat to society’s safety and warrants removal and 2. Their length of stay in the country.
Far too many undocumented immigrants have been in this country for over 10, 20, 30 years. They’ve operated within the confines of the law, with the exception of not having their proper paperwork.
For some of these people, especially the young people, this country is the only country they know as home. To deport them would be an unusually cruel punishment, especially if they are not guilty of a heinous crime.
For those who do commit heinous crimes, and have lived so long in this country that they only identify with the United States, and have served their prison sentences, they should be allowed to remain here to rejoin their families and, hopefully, be rehabilitated.
However, for those immigrants who come over to specifically commit murders, kidnappings, etc. on the orders of the Mexican drug cartels, these people do need to be deported â€” but they should not be confused with the millions of immigrants who have positively contributed to this society and lack only a piece of paper.