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Alas, high hopes for change in an Obama Department of Homeland Security are crashing — one-by-one

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.
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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.”

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  • Jose
    July 29, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Looks like she’s upholding her oath to defend the Constitution and the laws of the land. To do otherwise would subject her to accusations of negligence. The laws on immigration exist and should be enforced as the will of the people unless democratically changed. Anyone who objects to that does not share the Founding Fathers’ intent that we should be a nation of laws, not a nation of special interest men and women who circumvent the law at will. Marching in the streets and protesting to your congressmen or president are not substitutes for legislative actions that make change. If they were, we would no longer be a democracy. No one, not even the president has the authority to deny the enforcement of our laws, including those on illegal immigration. That’s the great thing about this country that you open borders freaks can’t seem to understand. If it were otherwise we could easily become a nation oppressed by tyrants.

  • Karen
    July 29, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I never fell for Obama’s BS. I voted for Nader.

  • irma
    July 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I didnt vote for Obama, I knew I could not trust him on immigration, this is why I pleaded on multiple Hispanic forum that our community vote for Hilary.
    Last Nov 2nd I stayed home.
    If he is the nominee next time,
    I will not vote for him.
    I will stay home again.

  • arturo fernandez
    July 31, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Joe Arpaio could have written exactly what you wrote. Yet he’s a fascist. Read the July 20th New Yorker. You are the freaks.

  • Evelyn
    July 31, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    When “Yes We Can!” Meets “No We Won’t!”
    I am very concerned about the future of this country.
    Congress (not just the Republicans, either) has not supported President Obama’s attempts at delivering the change on which he campaigned (and the change for which Americans overwhelmingly voted).
    As I removed my New York Times from its three (!?!?!?) protective bags yesterday morning and glanced over the front page, I noticed that four of the six articles directly or indirectly revealed how neither Congress nor the American people are really confronting the problems facing the country. On health care, there is a piece that details how the millions of dollars in campaign donations raised for Democrats by a Texas hospital are affecting how Democrats in Congress are approaching health care. With insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies having poured $81 million and $134 million, respectively, into Congressional coffers, it’s not surprising that more senators and members of Congress seemed to be concerned with the profit margins of these companies than with the health and wallets of the American people.
    I expect Republicans to out-and-out lie to protect their health insurance company benefactors (like Sen. Tom Coburn saying that people will die if health care reform is passed). But when you have a Blue Dog Democrat like Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas proudly saying Wednesday, “We have successfully pushed a floor vote to September,” you really start to wonder if there is any pretense left as to who those who oppose the president’s health care reform are working for. What is he so proud of? Delaying relief to the American people?
    The articles were a reminder of what I’ve been thinking since it became clear that Congress had no intention of passing anything resembling Obama’s ambitious health care reform plan that addressed the underlying systematic problems, rather than just handing out more money to the industries that are responsible for the current broken model: While voters enthusiastically embraced Obama’s calls for change, too many senators and U.S. representatives have no interest in signing on to a new agenda. In fact, beginning with the stimulus bill and moving through energy, financial regulation and now health care, Congress has gutted Obama’s proposals. Instead of embracing necessary systematic change, Republicans have concentrated on opposing anything Obama proposed to win political points, moderate and conservative Democrats have looked to ensure that Obama’s proposals were defanged, and even the mainstream wing of the Democratic party seems more intent on winning old battles than furthering the president’s ambitious proposals, the very ones that carried him (and, to some extent, Democrats in Congress) to power last November.
    To me, the battle has shaped up as a forward-looking president (the “Yes We Can!” of my title) trying to deliver the change he promised against an inward-looking Congress more interested in self-preservation (which has different meanings to mainstream Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans, but all adds up to the “No We Won’t!”).
    To me, it looks like Obama is trying to honestly take on the mammoth problem of health care, advocating for reform that would reduce costs, increase coverage, improve quality, and protect people from the whims of the insurance companies, but he is being opposed by Congress, even though his party has 60 seats in the Senate and a huge majority in the House (thanks to the Blue Dogs who are siding with the Republicans and mainstream Democrats who lack the constitution and compass to stand firm for systematic change). And, what’s worse, Obama is taking the blame.
    Yesterday, in a response to a Facebook friend’s status bashing Obama, someone commented that he was sick of the president making “empty promises” and that he should start fixing the problems facing the country. I felt like I was reading a Facebook page through the looking glass.
    An “empty promise” is one where the person making the promise has no intention of carrying it out. You can make that charge about Democrats in Congress, but I don’t see how you can put such an accusation at the feet of the president.
    I can argue the facts all I want, but in this guy’s mind (and based on the Times poll, he’s not alone), it’s all Obama’s fault, even though, despite George W. Bush’s belief to the contrary, a president is not a dictator who can act alone. To pass legislation, Congress has to do its part. And right now, a majority of members of Congress are not helping Obama face our very real problems.
    read entire article Here

  • cookie
    August 3, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Obama doesn’t have the authority to change our immigration laws, only congress does. That is why Bush couldn’t get his amnesty passed either.

  • Plato
    August 5, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Joe Arpaio could have written exactly what you wrote. Yet he’s a fascist. Read the July 20th New Yorker. You are the freaks.”
    Let’s face it, Arturo, if these people were Italians instead of Latinos you wouldn’t give a damn. You really don’t understand how this rogue support of illegal aliens pits us against the rest of the country, which doesn’t have the fortune of the opportunity to cross our sovereign border almost at will. Arturo, if you have such little consideration for this country as a nation, then I suggest that you join those on the other side of the border. Personally, I have little in common with my Mexican ancestors. Like most third generation Europeans, I have no connections to the homeland and I follow the customs of the vast majority of Americans. My family assimilated a long time ago. And you know, I can’t speak Spanish, and I really don’t care.

  • Karen
    August 6, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Re: “Personally, I have little in common with my Mexican ancestors. Like most third generation Europeans, I have no connections to the homeland and I follow the customs of the vast majority of Americans.”
    I hate to break this to you, but white people definitely have a connection to their history and their ancestors. They respect their own history and culture.
    When Mexicans assimilate, they usually end up hating other Mexicans, and by extension their own history.
    That’s why Mexican-Americans stay behind. Too often, the educated ones don’t go back and help the others.
    That being said, why can’t you see that Arapaio is violating people’s rights? He’s not only going after illegal immigrants. He’s rounding up anybody with brown skin, regardless of immigration status. Wake up.
    Latinos should boycott any product made in Arizona.
    Read a book called “The Miseducation of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodson. Much of it applies to Latinos too.

  • Benjamin
    August 8, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    “Latinos should boycott any product made in Arizona.”
    LOL. I assert that thus far not one call for a boycott by Latinos has ever succeeded, proving that Latinos are not the monolithic ethnic body that you people assert them to be. LOL. Name one case in which a Latino boycott has ever succeeded in changing social policy. Bluster if you need to vent, but silly calls for boycotts like yours are like pissing in the wind.

  • cookie
    August 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    That is BS, Karen. Arapio only stops people for suspicion of an infraction of a law and it doesn’t matter what their skin color or status is. The fact that there is a high concentration of brown skinned people living under his jurisdiction, doesn’t that tell you that percentage wise more browns would get stopped?

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