Commentary: Immigration Reform | KERA News

Commentary: Immigration Reform

Dallas, TX –

House Republicans, in their quest for immigration reform, have adopted as their mantra, "If at first, you don't succeed. Try, try again."

Not to be discouraged by the Senate's dismissal of their original immigration bill earlier this year, House Republicans have broken down their larger bill into smaller bite-size pieces.

One "small" bite is The Immigration Law Enforcement Act of 2006 that has among its provisions a measure that allows local police to act as immigration agents.

With Congress already revving up their re-election campaigns and no chance of them addressing this bill in the near future, city officials from Irving and Farmers Branch are joining other cities that are considering implementing a voluntary federal initiative similar to the House bill.

It's called the 287(g) immigration enforcement program that trains and certifies officers, throughout the course of their "regular activities," to question individuals considered immigration violators, and to detain them for possible deportation by U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents.

It's being sold as a natural extension of what police should be doing to keep our communities safe from hardened criminals, but that's hardly the case.

To begin with, it would create mistrust and avoidance of law enforcement among the undocumented. In a population that is already too easy prey for criminals and scam artists, a law that makes people too afraid to report a crime just victimizes them twice, and empowers the real criminals even more.

It would create a suspicion and leeriness of law enforcement by legal Latino citizens afraid they would be mistaken as undocumented.

It would put Latinas who are victims of domestic violence at further risk for fear of reporting abuse because of their legal status. It's already a known fact in Latino immigrant communities that some men will abuse undocumented women and then threaten to turn them into authorities to be deported if they should tell on their abusers.

It would affect the relationships between school resource officers and the Latino students they interact with on a daily basis, eroding, if not ending, any kind of trust that has developed between the two.

It would promote racial profiling since there would have to be an initial act to determine who is undocumented.

It would discourage any kind of cooperation from the Latino community in breaking cases involving drugs, gang violence or human smuggling. With reports that Mexico's drug cartels are expanding their operations farther into the United States, doesn't it make sense that the one demographic who could effectively be tapped to help in combating this growing threat are those who share the same native culture?

Lastly, enforcement of the initiative increases the potential for tearing families apart, disrupting lives and whole communities if safeguards are not enacted that will ensure it is the hardened criminals who have murdered, raped and robbed that will be stopped, screened and deported by police who enforce this initiative, and not the people who get pulled over for not making a complete stop, turning a blinker on or any other minor infraction.

While it's true that being in the country illegally is a crime, there exists in this debate a higher definition of what constitutes a criminal act: one that is an evil act and one that is an act of survival.

Marisa Trevino is a writer from Rowlett.

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