Even Government Knows the Immigration System is Broken

By Leticia Miranda Oct 09, 2009

Next week, the Obamas will be hosting a party celebration in honor of “Hispanic Heritage Month.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t invited. But it’s definitely not the time to break out that dusty sombrero, sip on strawberry margaritas and sing “La Cucaracha” into the night anyway. Nina Bernstein, for the New York Times, recently reported that a government report provides sobering numbers describing how the current immigration detention system is failing, miserably. Bernstein writes:

Though the administration has indicated that it wants to concentrate immigration enforcement on serious criminal offenders, the report shows that one of the largest and fastest-growing segments of the population in detention is noncriminals picked up in the enforcement programs the government has embraced.

The report shows that 60 percent of the 380,000 people detained during the 2009 fiscal year had been turned over to ICE by state and local police, mostly through the Criminal Alien Program and 287(g). But over half of them had no criminal convictions. “Now how did they get in there?” some in immigration enforcement might ask. Aarti Kohli, immigration policy expert at Berkeley Law’s Warren Institute and co-author of The CAP Effect: Racial Profiling in the ICE Criminal Alien Program, said to NewsWise last month:

“It was clearly a fishing expedition. Police cast a wide net to arrest anyone who looked [Latino] for any minor violation. The [Latino] community suspected racial profiling as the root cause of the increase in arrests. Our report backs that up.”

These programs don’t just give local and state police the grounds to assume anyone who looks Latino is not only undocumented, but a criminal, they also take attention away from the real solution: immigration reform that includes citizenship for people without documents. Dora Schriro, a former adviser, herself “spoke of the ‘cognitive dissonance’ between this system and the administration’s support for a path to citizenship for many of the country’s estimated 12 million unauthorized residents,” writes Bernstein. In fancier socio-psychoanalytic terms, she’s saying, “It makes no sense.” So when former advisers — people who actually work in government and aren’t radical crazies by mainstream and conservative standards — are saying the immigration system is broken, there most definitely is a problem. Maybe it’s a good thing I wasn’t invited to the Obamas’ party. The mention of shaming reports outlining a need for radical immigration reform might make for awkward conversations over margaritas. Read the rest of the article here at the New York Times.